UPDATE 1-Shareholder sides with Agrium in proxy fight against Jana

Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:39pm EDT

March 15 (Reuters) - A big shareholder in Agrium Inc said on Friday it would vote in favor of the Canadian agricultural company's board candidates, rather than for a dissident slate nominated by Jana Partners.

After meeting with both sides in the proxy battle, the shareholder, British Columbia Investment Management Corp, said that it believed Agrium's current board was providing effective oversight.

"We have determined that Jana's plan is not in the interests of long-term shareholders such as ourselves," said Doug Pearce, chief executive of BCIMC, which owns about 1 percent of Agrium's shares, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The corporation said the election of Jana's five nominees to the 12-member board would give disproportionate power to the hedge fund, which holds about 7.5 percent of the shares.

Jana wants the fertilizer producer to spin off its farm retail division, cut costs, make better use of capital and add more relevant experience to its board.

Agrium will conduct its annual meeting in Calgary, Alberta, on April 9, when shareholders will decide the makeup of its board of directors.

"There is a massive value-creation opportunity at Agrium, which can be unlocked by adding relevant experience and an enhanced shareholder mindset to its board of directors," Jana's candidates said in a letter to shareholders earlier on Friday.

Agrium spokesman Richard Downey said the letter confirmed that Jana is committed to breaking up Agrium, and that it offered flawed analysis on its stock's relative performance.

Agrium shares ended down 0.3 percent at $102.75 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

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