CF spurns Agrium

Fertilizer giant Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) says it is still being shut out by its unwilling U.S. takeover target, even after a majority of CF Industries Holdings Inc. (NYSE:CF) shareholders tendered to the Calgary-based firm’s bid last week.

CALGARY — Fertilizer giant Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) says it is still being shut out by its unwilling U.S. takeover target, even after a majority of CF Industries Holdings Inc. (NYSE:CF) shareholders tendered to the Calgary-based firm’s bid last week.

Agrium chief executive Mike Wilson said his CF counterpart called him to say his firm would not meet to discuss the nearly US$4-billion offer, even though 62 per cent of CF’s stock was tendered by last Monday’s deadline, which has been extended.

“Contradicting recent public comments that CF is prepared to engage, he stated to me that ’there is no reason to meet because nothing has changed,”’ Wilson said Monday.

“(CF chief executive) Steve Wilson said he called since stockholders wanted him to engage with Agrium. I do not consider returning my phone calls to say that CF refuses to meet to be engagement and I don’t think CF stockholders will either.”

CF spokeswoman Monika Driscoll confirmed the two executives spoke on Friday.

“We’ve returned all calls that they’ve made and we’re definitely willing to listen to anything new they have to say, but there is nothing new on the table,” she said.

“Nothing has really changed since May when the board of directors rejected Agrium’s latest revised offer as substantially undervaluing CF Industries.”

The number of shares tendered sends an “unambiguous message” that CF shareholders prefer the Agrium transaction, the Canadian company’s CEO said.

“After a compelling majority of CF shares were tendered by CF stockholders in support of our offer, it is striking that CF would dismiss the results of the tender offer and refuse to make any effort to elicit additional value for their stockholders by engaging with us and demonstrating new value,” Wilson said.

Agrium appears to be looking to shareholders to take legal action against CF, since there’s a good chance the Deerfield, Ill.-based company’s stock price will suffer should Agrium walk away, said Salman Partners analyst Raymond Goldie.

“I suspect that . . . the Agrium people are waiting to see if the fine American legal system is able to produce someone willing to launch a suit against the directors,” he said.

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