* Proxy firm says Jana has not made persuasive case
* Shares roughly flat in New York, Toronto
By Rod Nickel
March 21 Shareholder advisory firm Egan-Jones is
recommending that Agrium Inc investors vote for the
company's board candidates and not those of Jana Partners, the
dissident shareholder that wants Agrium to split off its farm
U.S.-based Egan-Jones, the first of several advisory firms
expected to issue opinions on the Agrium proxy battle, said on
Thursday it believes Agrium's current board provides effective
oversight and that Jana has not proved that a change in the
board's makeup is warranted.
Shares of Agrium were slightly lower in Toronto and a touch
higher in New York. The U.S.-listed stock is down about 4.5
percent over the past 10 days.
Jana has proposed five candidates for Agrium's 12-member
board. In addition to splitting off its farm retail division,
the fund wants Agrium to improve its use of capital and cut
costs, among other changes.
"Our belief (is) that the dissidents have failed to make a
persuasive case that a corporate split involving a spinoff of
its farm retail division would result in the enhancement of
shareholder value," Egan-Jones said in its 25-page report.
Agrium spokesman Richard Downey said the company is pleased
with the decision. A source close to Jana said he did not think
many shareholders subscribe to Egan-Jones.
Shareholders of the Canadian agribusiness have begun voting,
with the proxy battle winding up on April 9 at Agrium's annual
meeting in Calgary, Alberta.
Jana is Agrium's biggest shareholder, controlling 7.5
percent of the widely held company.
Shareholder Letko, Brosseau & Associates, which owns about
1.5 percent of outstanding stock, said on Monday that it backs
Agrium. Another shareholder -- British Columbia Investment
Management Corp -- sided with the company last week. BCIM owns
about 1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.