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Hedge fund Jana fires back at Agrium in ongoing battle over company's future

The Canadian Press

NEW YORK, N.Y. - An activist hedge fund looking to make major changes at Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) has fired another volley in their ongoing battle.

Jana Partners LLC says it is confident new directors "with the right experience" must be added to the board so that Agrium can "realize its full potential."

Making reference to Agrium's comments that its plan to improve the company is "all wrong," Jana says that while Agrium has finally entered the debate "nothing they have said has changed it."

In November, Jana announced it wants five of its nominees to join Agrium's board. It has proposed breaking Agrium into separate retail and wholesale companies.

In feisty remarks to sell-side analysts in New York last week, Agrium CEO Mike Wilson said Jana's prime objective was to split the company, which he said would result in "huge value destruction."

Wilson also said there's no good reason to appease Jana with board seats.

While a corporate split isn't the only demand Jana has made since it first approached Agrium privately in May, it is the proposal that has garnered the most attention.

Among other things, Jana also wants Agrium to cut costs, allocate capital more effectively, improve governance and disclose more information about its retail business.

Jana is now Agrium's largest shareholder, with a six per cent stake.

Wilson has said the last time he met with Jana managing partner Barry Rosenstein was in October. Since then, the two have been lobbing criticism of each other through the media.