CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan boosted its stake in Petro-Canada nearly fourfold over the last quarter of 2008 and said on Thursday it is talking with the company's management about boosting the value of the shares.
Teachers', which manages more than C$108 billion ($88 billion), said in a regulatory filing that it held about 16 million Petro-Canada shares at year-end, about 3.3 percent of the company's stock.
That was up from its holding of 4.3 million shares in Canada's No. 4 oil exploration and refining firm that the pension fund held on September 30, 2008.
But the holding is well below the 7 percent to 10 percent stake that the Globe and Mail newspaper said in a February 2 article that Teachers' had accumulated.
The newspaper said the pension fund was accumulating a big stake in order to launch a proxy battle that could lead to ousting directors at Petro-Canada, whose shares have lagged rivals and major indexes over the past five years.
Deborah Allen, a spokeswoman for Teachers', said the pension fund was talking to Petro-Canada about boosting the value of the shares, but said talks were cordial. She added there were no plans to provide details of any negotiations.
"We're not discussing specifics publicly," Allen said.
Still, Petro-Canada's shares have risen 10 percent since the newspaper report, much more than rivals over the same period. It's a sign, one analyst said, that investors are looking for a change in Petro-Canada, either in its management or its strategy.
"It was a harbinger of the general feeling in the marketplace," said William Lacey, an analyst at FirstEnergy Capital. "Investors are not happy with (Petro-Canada's) direction."
Petro-Canada officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Petro-Canada shares rose C$1.39, or 5 percent, to C$29.33 on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has fallen 34 percent over the past 12 months.
Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson, Leslie Gevirtz