Discussions over whether Agrium should sell off its retail branch grew more intense this week after the company met with Jana Partners, the shareholder pressuring Agrium to sell off the branch. Monday’s meeting had been scheduled weeks prior to Jana Partners encouraging Agrium to sell its retail unit.
On Monday, Agrium issued a 12-page report to its shareholders documenting its communications with Jana and stressing its plan to keep its retail division. Jana issued a statement following the release of Agrium’s report criticizing some points in the filing.
JANA issued the following statement. "This is more of the same from Agrium's board and management: talking down their own stock price to avoid an honest debate about unlocking full shareholder value and twisting themselves into knots trying to reconcile their past comments with their current obstructionist position.”
JANA claims the retail business is “dramatically undervalued” in comparison to its peer fertilizer companies. The hedge fund also blames Agrium’s underperforming stock on poor performance of the retail business, in addition to climbing costs and a board that does not have sufficient retail-distribution knowledge.
At the meeting, Agrium made clear to JANA that the board carefully considered JANA’s position that Agrium should spin off its retail operations. The board unanimously determined that a spin-off would not be in the best interests of the company or its shareholders.
Agrium issued a statement saying it is confident that it has an effective long-term strategy to create sustainable value for shareholders. Agrium believes the performance and value of its retail operations will continue to be maximized within the existing structure.