11 October 2013 20:22 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Agrium officials confirmed on Friday that activist hedge fund Jana Partners has reduced its holdings in the Canadian fertilizer company from a 7.5% stake down to 2.7%.
Earlier this year the two sides were engaged in a contentious spat over control of the company with Jana calling for Agrium to replace directors with their own nominees and separate segments of the business.
The dispute eventually led to a proxy battle showdown in April. Agrium prevailed when shareholders decided to re-elect all 12 incumbent directors.
In recent weeks the fertilizer producer has raised its dividend by 50% to a level of $3.00 per share on an annualized basis and announced the retirement of CEO Mike Wilson by year’s end. Wilson is to be replaced by current Agrium chief operating officer Chuck Magro.
In the regulatory filing by the hedge fund, officials said they were encouraged by the company’s increased capital returns and the change in management structure. Jana said it is felt that the recent decisions by Agrium will improve the way the producer deals with its shareholders.
“While Jana continues to believe there are opportunities for substantial improvement in each of these areas, it is pleased by Agrium’s progress in many of them since the initial engagement with Agrium,” said Jana.
The hedge fund said it is still striving to get Agrium to agree to conduct an unbiased review of separating the retail and wholesale segments, which was one of the primary arguments it presented when it decided to try and remove the current board members.
Agrium said it would not be releasing any statement on the matter as it was simply a case of shareholders selling or buying stock in the company, which is a common occurrence.
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