UPDATE 1-Agrium wins crucial endorsement ahead of shareholder vote

Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:18am EDT
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* Glass Lewis advises its clients to back Agrium nominees

* Firm says Jana's arguments not as compelling as Agrium's

* Follows similar recommendations from rival advisory firms

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, March 27 (Reuters) - Agrium Inc won another ringing endorsement just ahead of a crucial shareholder vote after influential advisory firm Glass Lewis on Tuesday advised its clients to back all 12 of Agrium's board nominees over a slate nominated by dissident investor Jana Partners.

The recommendation from the well-regarded advisory firm is a big boost for Agrium ahead of a shareholder vote on April 9 and follows similar recommendations from smaller firms like U.S.-based Egan-Jones and UK-based Pensions Investment Research Consultants.

Proxy advisory firms like Glass Lewis advise institutional investors ahead of shareholder votes and their reports very often sway votes for or against management in proxy battles.

New York-based hedge fund Jana has been locked in a war of words with the fertilizer maker and farm products retailer for months. Jana, Agrium's largest shareholder with a 7.5 percent stake, wants Agrium to spin off its farm retail arm, improve its use of capital and cut costs, among other things.

Glass Lewis in its report advised its institutional investor clients to back Agrium's nominees over Jana's five-member slate as it believes that Agrium had presented a "more compelling case" in favor of maintaining its strategy than the counter arguments put forward by Jana.   Continued...