ValueAct buys stake in fertilizer dealer Agrium

(Dave Bedard photo)

Reuters — Activist hedge fund ValueAct Capital on Friday disclosed it had bought a 5.7 per cent stake in Agrium, one and a half years after the Canadian fertilizer and ag retailer maker won a proxy battle aimed at breaking up the company.

Agrium’s shares jumped nearly seven per cent in morning trading in New York and Toronto.

ValueAct bought about 8.2 million shares in Calgary-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 Agrium 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, 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, 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.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg.

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