ValueAct buys stake in fertilizer dealer Agrium, shares jump

Fri Oct 24, 2014 9:58am EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba Oct 24 (Reuters) - Activist hedge fund ValueAct Capital on Friday disclosed it had bought a 5.7 percent stake in Agrium Inc, one and a half years after the Canadian fertilizer maker won a proxy battle aimed at breaking up the company.

Agrium's shares jumped nearly 7 percent in morning trading in New York and Toronto.

ValueAct bought about 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium for "investment purposes," the San Francisco-based fund said in a filing to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. The stake makes ValueAct the second-largest investor in Agrium, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"Agrium has met with ValueAct as we do with our other shareholders," said company spokesman Richard Downey. "The discussions with them have been cordial and constructive, they describe themselves as long-term shareholders."

ValueAct, whose other investments include acquisitive drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc did not disclose in the filing any steps it wants Agrium to take.

Agrium fended off a bid in April 2013 by its then-biggest shareholder, activist Jana Partners LLC, to split the company's wholesale fertilizer and retail businesses and make other changes.

Agrium, which produces nitrogen, potash and phosphate, recently warned that its second-half profit would miss expectations.

Fertilizer companies' profits have sagged in the past year amid declining crop and nutrient prices. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)