Agrium says regulator hasn't raised concerns about deal with Glencore

NEW YORK Tue May 14, 2013 8:20pm EDT

NEW YORK May 14 (Reuters) - Canada's Competition Bureau has not raised any concerns about Agrium Inc's proposed purchase of 232 farm supply stores from Glencore Xstrata PLC , even though its review has taken months longer than expected, a senior Agrium official said.

Agrium agreed more than a year ago to pay C$175 million ($172 million) plus C$400 million in working capital, net of operating cash flow from the supply stores from March 31, 2012 until the deal closes. The sale, triggered by Glencore's takeover of grain handler Viterra Inc last year, has raised competition concerns among some farmers, because Agrium already owns some stores and is also a major producer of nitrogen and potash fertilizer.

Along with the Canadian outlets, which sell seed, chemicals and fertilizer to farmers, Agrium will get 17 stores in Australia.

"(The Competition Bureau) need to be thoughtful about what they're doing and they're going to go through their fulsome process and take their time," said Chuck Magro, Agrium's chief operating officer, on the sidelines of the BMO Farm to Market conference in New York. "They haven't said, 'we have a specific concern, or here's an issue.'

"Their questions are more just on filling the gap in their information on fundamentals - market information more than anything."

Magro said Agrium already excluded from its purchase those Viterra stores that it thought might pose competition concerns. He said it is possible the Competition Bureau might ask Agrium to sell off stores in sensitive areas, and numerous parties have already expressed interest in buying any that become available.

Agrium sees regulatory approval for its purchase late in the second quarter or early in the third quarter. It had expected approval late last year.

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