UPDATE 2-Shareholder Jana demands Agrium respond to issues
Oct 16 (Reuters) - Hedge fund Jana Partners LLC, the largest shareholder in Agrium Inc , which has been pushing for a split of the Canadian fertilizer company's wholesale and retail division, on Tuesday called for the company to be more open to discussing ways to boost shareholder value.
Jana said Agrium's responses to the issues it has raised have been "incomplete" and "misleading."
"Agrium has tried everything but making a compelling argument for the status quo," said Jana managing partner Barry Rosenstein in a statement. "While the company may dispute narrow elements of our analysis, nothing they have said refutes the overall picture of undervaluation and underperformance relative to Agrium's true potential."
Jana, which owns about 4.0 percent of the Calgary, Alberta-based company, also wants Agrium to improve disclosure, reduce operating costs and working capital and address some corporate costs. It said on Oct. 1 that shareholders could see Agrium's share price rise by about $50, or nearly 50 percent, if the company took steps to improve its business.
Jana said Agrium has not given a substantive response, for example, to its key concern that the retail and wholesale businesses are a poor combination.
Agrium spokesman Richard Downey countered that Agrium is confident a majority of shareholders see greater value with the company's integrated strategy, and that it has met extensively with Jana about its ideas.
"There are major flaws in Jana's analysis and conclusions and, as a result, its ideas lack both merit and investor support," Downey said in a statement. "There is overwhelming support by shareholders and analysts for a continuation of Agrium's highly successful strategy and structure."
Agrium's shares ended slightly lower in New York on Tuesday at $103.77. They rose modestly in Toronto to C$102.44.
The company is a major producer of nitrogen fertilizer and a producer of potash and phosphate, nutrients used to boost crop yields. Agrium also owns the biggest network of farm retail stores in the United States, where it sells seed, chemicals and fertilizer.
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