UPDATE 2-Big funds pick sides as Agrium-Jana battle nears climax

Fri Apr 5, 2013 5:18pm EDT
 
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* CPPIB says Jana hasn't made a compelling case for change

* Jana down plays significance of the CPPIB support

* Neuberger Berman to back Jana's slate - sources

* Agrium shares close slightly lower in New York, Toronto

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, April 5 (Reuters) - Agrium Inc's fierce battle with activist investor Jana Partners could go down to the wire as Agrium's large institutional investors look to be split on who they are backing ahead of a shareholder vote at Agrium's annual meeting next week.

The big Canadian fertilizer maker and farm products retailer has been locked in a war of words for months with Jana Partners, a New York-based hedge fund, over the direction the company should take. Jana has named a slate of five nominees for election to Agrium's board and the battle is now set to come to a head at Agrium's AGM on its home turf in Calgary, Alberta, on April 9.

Jana, Agrium's largest shareholder with a 7.5 percent stake, wants Agrium to spin off its farm retail arm and improve its use of capital, among other things. Agrium, however, says it favors the status quo and highlights the steep rise in its share price as evidence that it is on the right track.

Many investors, analysts and proxy advisory firms have now taken sides.   Continued...