Agrium gains two more supporters in contest for the company

22 March 2013 21:56  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Canadian fertilizer producer Agrium on Friday gained two more allies in its proxy fight for control of the company against Jana Partners and the activist hedge fund’s plan to replace directors and separate segments of the business.

London-based Pensions Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) announced it was joining the growing ranks of those who are recommending shareholders vote for Agrium’s board candidates.

In releasing its decision, the firm cited concerns about the Jana campaign based on the fact that the hedge fund, which owns 7.5% of the company, intended to control 42% of the 12-member board. It also took issue with the plan to separately compensate those candidates it had nominated for election.

PIRC was joined in favour of Agrium by Calgary-based Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCo), which also made the choice to reject Jana’s candidates and took the time to praise the incumbent board members.

The investment manager said there are times when activist investors serve a vital role, particularly when there is poor company performance, but that from AIMCo's viewpoint that was not the case in this proxy battle.

“It has done well for its shareholders, both absolutely and relative to peers. AIMCo considers the incumbent Agrium director roster to be robust in terms of composition, experience and independence. The new Agrium director nominees offer superior agricultural market knowledge,” AIMCo said in a press statement.

With the two entities joining in support, that makes five companies within the last week that have publicly stated their position in favour of Agrium.

British Columbia Investment Management, which holds about 1% of Agrium stock, has said that it is siding with the producer.

That decision was followed by the announcement that Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates, which holds 1.2% of shares, will be voting for the current board.

On Thursday, US-based shareholder advisory firm Egan-Jones said its recommendation was to vote for the Agrium’s slate of directors, as it is their position that the current board provides effective leadership.

Shareholders will vote on 9 April for the board of directors at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary. They can vote for as many or as few candidates as they want but can only select from Agrium’s or Jana’s proxy card.

By: Mark Milam
+1 713 525 2653

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