UPDATE 1-PIRC investor service recommends Agrium candidates

Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:09pm EDT

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March 22 (Reuters) - London-based Pensions Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) is recommending that Agrium Inc shareholders vote for the company's board candidates, not those of dissident shareholder Jana Partners.

PIRC's decision follows a similar recommendation on Thursday by U.S.-based proxy advisor Egan-Jones that investors side with Agrium candidates in the company's proxy battle against Jana.

Jana wants Agrium to split off its farm retail division, improve its use of capital and cut costs, among other changes. The company, which has a market cap of $15 billion, also produces fertilizer.

Agrium shareholders have begun voting, but some are awaiting decisions by influential shareholder advisory services ISS and Glass Lewis. The board's makeup will be announced April 9.

In its report, PIRC, a research and advisory firm serving institutional investors, cited two concerns about Jana. The New York hedge fund, Agrium's biggest investor, owns 7.5 percent of the company but is seeking to control 42 percent of the 12-member board by nominating five candidates, it said.

PIRC also said it took issue with Jana's plan to separately compensate those of its candidates that are elected to Agrium's board.

A source close to Jana said PIRC's analysis is "highly flawed," and Jana does not believe it will influence shareholders' votes. Agrium spokesman Richard Downey said the company is pleased with PIRC's decision.

Agrium shares were around flat in late trading on Friday.

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