UPDATE 1-Agrium CEO says talks with activist ValueAct are 'friendly'

Tue Nov 4, 2014 1:41pm EST
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(Adds CEO comment on ValueAct, retail outlook)

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba Nov 4 (Reuters) - Agrium Inc has been in "friendly" talks with activist shareholder ValueAct Capital, Chief Executive Officer Chuck Magro said on Tuesday, adding that the hedge fund approves of the Canadian fertilizer company's strategy.

ValueAct on Oct. 24 disclosed it had bought a 5.7 percent stake in the company, 1-1/2 years after Agrium won a proxy battle with another activist trying to breaking it up.

"We've had very good two-way dialogue" with ValueAct, Magro said on a conference call with analysts. "So far, what they're telling me is the reason they've invested in Agrium is they like the strategic plan."

After an analyst asked if ValueAct was seeking a board seat, Magro said he would not speak about the issues discussed.

San Francisco-based ValueAct did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Agrium's shares have gained about 15 percent in Toronto since ValueAct disclosed its stake.

They were up nearly 1 percent in Toronto and New York on Tuesday afternoon after Agrium late on Monday reported a higher-than-expected third-quarter profit but gave a lackluster outlook for the current period.   Continued...