08 April 2013 21:27 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Although the final tally will not be released until Tuesday afternoon at Agrium’s annual general meeting, activist hedge fund Jana Partners on Monday expressed confidence that two of its candidates had gained enough votes to join the Canadian fertilizer producer board of directors.
After months of public fighting over the control of Agrium, Jana said from their immediate accounting it appears that approximately 59m shareholder votes were cast for one or more of the candidates and it is very likely that hedge fund managing partner Barry Rosenstein and former United Agri Products executive David Bullock were successful in gaining seats on the 12-member board.
“Agrium’s opposition to adding a minority of new voices to the board was based on its claim that an overwhelming number of shareholders did not favour such change,” said Rosenstein. “Now that this has been disproven, it is time to accept that result rather than continuing to fight behind the scenes.”
Jana currently has a 7.5% stake in the fertilizer producer, and has repeatedly stated that the current leadership has misrepresented its performance and called for the company to break its retail sector away from the wholesale fertilizer segment.
It is their assertion the retail portion, which directly sells seeds, chemicals and fertilizers to farmers, has failed to meet its potential.
The hedge fund had sought to have five of the current board of directors remove and replaced by a group of candidates they selected. Agrium has consistently countered that Jana’s intention is to break apart the company.
Agrium officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Rosenstein said it was his desire to see the contentious attitude and bitter exchanges that marked the proxy contest finally laid to rest in exchange for a renewed focus on fulfilling the company’s expectations and potential future growth.
“There is no good reason why the full board cannot work with a small number of new directors, particularly given the many areas of mutual agreement, including the importance of cost management, the benefits of a shareholder friendly capital allocation policy, the value of enhanced disclosure to shed light on the value of Agrium’s business and the benefits of properly incentivising management to profitably grow those businesses,” Rosenstein said.
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