ALBERTA

Jana ratchets up Agrium fight, says it can unlock $50 per share with changes

10/01/2012 02:13 EDT | Updated 12/01/2012 05:12 EST
CALGARY - An investor pushing for changes at Agrium Inc. laid out its case publicly for the first time on Monday, arguing it could add US$50 to the Canadian fertilizer company's share price.

"There is no legitimate reason to deny shareholders this value creation opportunity," said Jana Partners founder Barry Rosenstein, according to a presentation to an investment conference in New York obtained by The Canadian Press.

Agrium shares rose nearly two per cent to C$103.87 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In New York, the stock shot up 2.3 per cent to US$105.71.

Among other things, Jana wants Agrium to split off its retail business — through which it sells fertilizer and other products to farmers — from its wholesale business that produces nutrients such as potash, nitrogen and phosphate.

By eliminating what it describes as a "conglomerate discount," Jana said Agrium's stock could get a boost of $15 to $20 per share.

Agrium has argued a split would expose shareholders to too much risk, while Jana has accused Agrium of downplaying the true value of its retail segment in order to bolster its argument.

Jana said an additional $10 per share can be unlocked if Agrium improves capital allocation. It has applauded recent moves by Agrium to boost its dividend and buy back stock.

And another $20 can be realized if Agrium reduces costs in its retail arm and cuts corporate overhead, Jana said.

"Retail is a high quality business boasting attractive structural characteristics and end market exposure, thus warranting premium valuation," Rosenstein said in his presentation.

Jana wants Agrium to disclose more details on how its retail division is performing and for the company to add more retail experience to its board of directors.

Agrium said there was nothing new in the Jana statements Monday.

"Agrium remains confident that shareholders will receive far greater value, with less risk, under the company's current strategy." Agrium chief executive Michael Wilson said.

Jana first approached Agrium in May and the two sides have been speaking privately since then.

"Agrium has responded constructively to our calls for improved return of capital, substantially increasing the size of its dividend and initiating its first large share repurchase in a decade, and has conceded that there is always room for operational performance improvement," Jana said in a "frequently asked questions" page posted on the new website www.janaaguanalysis.com.

"However, Agrium has failed to respond constructively to other aspects of our analysis, without offering legitimate justifications in our opinion for failing to do so. Even worse, Agrium has mounted an insular and expensive defence against even engaging in this debate."

Jana has invested $700 million so far into Agrium, making it the fertilizer company's biggest shareholder with a four per cent stake.

MORE:Albertacp