U.S. Markets close in 2 hrs 49 mins

Agrium nominees elected to the board

Rob Gillies, Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) -- Agrium's management defeated Tuesday an activist investor's attempt to change the strategy of the fertilizer company after Agrium's entire management slate of nominees were elected to the company's board of directors.

Jana, a New York hedge fund and Agrium Inc.'s biggest shareholder, is pushing for changes at Agrium, including spinning off its retail operations into a separate company. Jana had proposed a slate of five nominees for the board, but all 12 of the Agrium's nominees were elected to the board, shutting out Jana's nominees.

Agrium President and CEO Mike Wilson said after the vote that Jana chose the wrong company to target and said shareholders backed management. Management said approximately 80 percent of Agrium's top institutional shareholders voted for Agrium's nominees.

"Our integrated strategy has been written," Wilson said. "We don't expect any bold changes."

Wilson said the company spent millions thwarting Jana's attempt.

Jana managing director Barry Rosenstein said he's not going away. The hedge fund spent more than $1 billion for a 7.5 percent stake in Agrium and made a number of proposals for change. Aside from looking to control costs better and raising its stock price, Jana also wants Agrium to improve its capital allocation.

Agrium's stock dropped sharply earlier in November after the Canadian company's forecast for the quarter came in well short of analysts' projections. Agrium warned that there are signs of weakening demand for phosphate, a key ingredient in one type of fertilizer, while uncertainty regarding supply agreements with China and India over potash fertilizer is affecting that market.

The company sells three major types of fertilizer — nitrogen, phosphate and potash — in North and South America as well as Australia.