CF Industries picks new CEO with expansion under way

Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:43am EDT
 
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Sept 16 (Reuters) - The longtime chief executive of CF Industries Holdings Inc will retire and be replaced internally, just as it carries out a $3.8-billion expansion, the world's second-biggest producer of nitrogen fertilizer said on Monday.

Tony Will, 48, the senior vice-president of manufacturing and distribution at the Deerfield, Illinois-based company, will replace CEO Steve Wilson, 64, on Jan. 1, 2014.

The move comes after two years of record-large profits, but at a time when CF faces pressure from an activist investor to hike its dividend.

CF shares rose 3 percent in early trading in New York to $199.60, in line with gains for nitrogen rival Agrium Inc .

Wilson, CF's CEO for 10 years, will stay on as a director and serve as non-executive chairman.

"There's a lot of continuity there," said Joel Jackson, analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns, noting that Will comes from the manufacturing side of the company with the major expansion under way, adding "I don't know if we should expect any seismic change at CF anytime soon."

Hedge fund Third Point LLC said in July that it had bought a stake in CF and called for a bigger dividend.

Wilson later said he was open to ideas about how to deploy free cash flow.

CF's succession plan may be the first in a series of changes at the tops of North America's biggest fertilizer companies. The chief executives of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, Mosaic Co and Agrium are all nearing possible retirement age.