|By PR Newswire||
|February 20, 2013 12:00 PM EST||
NEW YORK, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- JANA Partners LLC today released the following open letter to shareholders of Agrium, Inc. ("Agrium") (TSX / NYSE: AGU). Agrium announced at the end of the day last Friday that its Annual General Meeting of Shareholders will be held on April 9, 2013 and that shareholders of record on February 25, 2013 will be eligible to vote.
February 20, 2013
AN OPEN LETTER TO AGRIUM SHAREHOLDERS:
Why We Said No to the Status Quo at Agrium, and Why You Should Too
Dear Fellow Agrium Inc. Shareholder,
We have invested more than $1 billion in Agrium, making us the largest shareholder with approximately 6.5% of its outstanding shares, because we believe Agrium can generate substantial additional upside for all shareholders by addressing 5 core issues: Costs, Controls, Capital Allocation, Conglomerate Structure and Corporate Governance. Agrium however refuses to fully address these issues, and has subverted traditional notions of good governance by fighting off our highly qualified independent nominees and choosing their own directors merely because we have questioned its performance and strategy. We note that the market has had a swift and negative reaction to this refusal to engage, including a 7% share price decline last week after Agrium's new directors were announced and our rejection of its insufficient settlement offer.
Upending Notions of Good Corporate Governance. Agrium has sought to turn traditional notions of board oversight of management upside down by making any questioning of management's prior performance or strategy a disqualification for board service. When asked recently why Agrium refused to consider our candidates, Agrium's CEO responded that "It is not typical to bring someone on the board who tells you your strategy is flawed and indirectly tells you you're incompetent." (The Globe & Mail, Feb. 4, 2013). JANA has of course never called management "incompetent." We have simply identified areas of substantial opportunity and proposed qualified nominees to help explore them. This same fortress mentality was on display in our recent settlement discussions, with Agrium demanding at one point that we drop all of our issues in exchange for merely proceeding with talks, and refusing to even speak to our nominees.
This thin-skinned and insular attitude leads us to conclude that Agrium's new directors have been pre-screened to ensure compliance with the status quo. We further note that Agrium did not cast a very wide net to locate new board appointee Mayo Schmidt, given that Viterra's distribution business was acquired by Agrium in a transaction in which he earned over C$30MM. We also note that our board nominees stand to benefit only to the extent that all shareholders benefit and each meets the definition of "independence" under the CBCA, NYSE rules, and Agrium's own governance guidelines.
Just last Friday, Agrium doubled-down on its approach, shifting up the usual date of its annual meeting by over a month in an apparent attempt to cut short this debate. While we are confident that this move is too little, too late, it further paints a picture of serious governance issues at Agrium. As one analyst put it, "Friday after the close at the start of a holiday weekend isn't typically when company Boards disclose things they are proud of, but you can't fault the Agrium Board for consistency. An abrupt shift in the dates for the shareowner meeting looks designed to perpetuate the lack of transparency and accountability that seems to be the (very) unexpected legacy of CEO Mike Wilson. Investors who have been supportive of Agrium thus far will have to think hard about whether this is the sort of behavior they want to encourage elsewhere, when they cast their ballots in this accelerated election." (Credit Agricole / CLSA, Feb. 19, 2013)
Refusal to Address Core Issues. When Agrium approached us seeking a settlement, we made clear that for any settlement to occur the board would need to commit to conducting a full review of the branch footprint of its distribution business ("Retail") and corporate overhead (Costs) and a full review of Retail senior management performance objectives (Controls), to communicate a targeted dividend payout ratio or some other mechanism to clarify ongoing capital return plans (Capital Allocation) and to retain a new investment bank to perform a review of Agrium's structure (Conglomerate Structure), in addition to adding highly-qualified and independent new directors rather than fighting off such change (Corporate Governance). Agrium however refused to commit to even the mildest versions of these concepts.
Appointing New Directors Who Lack Relevant Experience. Neither of Agrium's chosen new directors addresses the board's lack of distribution experience, which is of crucial importance given the size of Agrium's Retail business.
- Mayo Schmidt. While Mr. Schmidt served as CEO of Viterra Inc. before it was acquired by Glencore and Agrium, Viterra's distribution business accounted for less than 15% of EBITDA and served primarily to advance its grain handling business. Agrium has also noted significant opportunities for improvement at Viterra's distribution business, which calls into question Mr. Schmidt's abilities in areas like cost management. We also note that like Agrium, Viterra struggled in basic areas of oversight and performance including Costs, given Viterra's consistently high annual growth rate in corporate overhead, and Capital Allocation, given that Viterra executed no share repurchases (instead issuing over $2 billion of equity) and initiated a small dividend only after coming under pressure from shareholders to do so.
- David Everitt. Mr. Everitt ran a unit at Deere & Co. that manufactured and sold capital equipment to a separate independently-owned and operated dealer network. While he has experience in agriculture and with manufacturing and supply chain issues, he brings no experience in managing true "breaking bulk" distribution of primarily third party manufactured products, which is a crucial gap given that Agrium's Retail business purchases the vast majority of its products from third party suppliers and breaks bulk to distribute to farmer customers.
By contrast, 3 of our 5 nominees bring more than 75 years of combined experience creating substantial value in true "breaking bulk" distribution and excellent track records of deploying capital with a true owner orientation.
Questions for Every Shareholder.
- Wouldn't a board more concerned with good governance and continuous improvement than avoiding criticism have agreed to merely fully explore the issues we set forth above, given the billions in potential value creation?
- Why would the board resist adding a minority of new directors who actually have the experience to ask the right questions about Retail's operations and strategy?
- Why would a board that has spent $4 billion on Retail acquisitions that have failed to meet Agrium's minimum return hurdle and which failed for years to engage in significant shareholder return of capital until pressured to do so refuse to simply clarify its ongoing capital return plans?
- Why would a board that has overseen a 14% annual growth rate in corporate overhead, has a Retail footprint which by Agrium's own admission and measurement standards has a glaring degree of duplication, and has generated negative operating leverage refuse to consider seriously examining its costs?
- If Agrium's conglomerate structure truly creates more value than a separation, why is the board so resistant to an independent and fair review, particularly given the flaws in its initial review including manipulating trading comparables and hiring advisors who once argued against Agrium's structure to now defend it, and given that our nominees will constitute only a minority of the board once elected?
- Why would a board that has consistently set compensation targets for Retail management that prioritize growth through acquisitions over profitability refuse to an enhanced review of these compensation targets and objectives?
- Why would a board that has overseen a litany of corporate governance failings including talking down its own value to avoid a debate, botching a significant share repurchase, accelerating its annual meeting date and more resist adding independent and shareholder-oriented new directors?
We believe the board should be saying yes to these opportunities to unlock Agrium's full value creation potential, rather than wasting substantial shareholder money fighting them off, and we remain confident that once our highly qualified and shareholder-focused director candidates are elected, the board will do so.
JANA Partners LLC
Information in Support of Public Broadcast Solicitation
JANA is relying on the exemption under section 9.2(4) of National Instrument 51-102 – Continuous Disclosure Obligations to make this public broadcast solicitation. The following information is provided in accordance with corporate and securities laws applicable to public broadcast solicitations.
This solicitation is being made by JANA, and not by or on behalf of the management of Agrium.
The address of Agrium is 13131 Lake Fraser Drive S.E., Calgary, Alberta T2J 7E8.
JANA has filed an information circular containing the information required by Form 51-102F5 – Information Circular in respect of its proposed nominees, which is available on Agrium's company profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and at www.JANAAguAnalysis.com.
Proxies for the Agrium shareholders' meeting may be solicited by mail, telephone, email or other electronic means as well as by newspaper or other media advertising, and in person by managers, directors, officers and employees of JANA, who will not be specifically remunerated therefor. In addition, JANA may solicit proxies in reliance upon the public broadcast exemption to the solicitation requirements under applicable Canadian corporate and securities laws, conveyed by way of public broadcast, including through press releases, speeches or publications, and by any other manner permitted under applicable Canadian laws. JANA may engage the services of one or more agents and authorize other persons to assist it in soliciting proxies on behalf of JANA. All costs incurred for the solicitation will be borne by JANA.
JANA has entered into agreements with Kingsdale Shareholder Services Inc. ("Kingsdale") and The Laurel Hill Advisory Group Company ("Laurel Hill") pursuant to which Kingsdale and Laurel Hill have agreed to assist JANA in soliciting shareholders should JANA commence a formal solicitation of proxies. Kingsdale's responsibilities will principally include advising JANA on governance best practices, where applicable, liaising with proxy advisory firms, developing and implementing shareholder communication and engagement strategies, and advising with respect to meeting and proxy protocol. Laurel Hill will be principally responsible for the solicitation of retail shareholders and other strategic advice. Pursuant to the agreement with Kingsdale, for its solicitation services, Kingsdale would receive a fee in the range of $125,000 to $250,000, plus disbursements and a telephone call fee. In addition, Kingsdale may be entitled to a success fee on the successful completion of JANA's solicitation, as determined by JANA in consultation with Kingsdale. Kingsdale will also receive a separate fee for its other services. Pursuant to the agreement with Laurel Hill, Laurel Hill would receive a fee of up to $100,000, plus disbursements and a telephone call fee. In addition, Laurel Hill will be entitled to a success fee of $100,000 on the successful completion of JANA's solicitation. All costs incurred for the solicitation will be borne by JANA.
JANA is not requesting that Agrium shareholders submit a proxy at this time. Once JANA has commenced a formal solicitation of proxies, a registered holder of common shares of Agrium that gives a proxy may revoke it: (a) by completing and signing a valid proxy bearing a later date and returning it in accordance with the instructions contained in the form of proxy to be provided by JANA, or as otherwise provided in the final proxy circular, once made available to shareholders; (b) by depositing an instrument in writing executed by the shareholder or by the shareholder's attorney authorized in writing, as the case may be: (i) at the registered office of Agrium at any time up to and including the last business day preceding the day the meeting of Agrium shareholders or any adjournment or postponement of the meeting is to be held, or (ii) with the chairman of the meeting prior to its commencement on the day of the meeting or any adjournment or postponement of the meeting; or (c) in any other manner permitted by law. A non-registered holder of common shares of Agrium will be entitled to revoke a form of proxy or voting instruction form given to an intermediary at any time by written notice to the intermediary in accordance with the instructions given to the non-registered holder by its intermediary.
To the knowledge of JANA, neither JANA nor any of its managers, directors or officers, or any associates or affiliates of the foregoing, nor any of JANA's nominees, or their respective associates or affiliates, has: (i) any material interest, direct or indirect, in any transaction since the beginning of Agrium's most recently completed financial year or in any proposed transaction that has materially affected or would materially affect Agrium or any of its subsidiaries; or (ii) any material interest, direct or indirect, by way of beneficial ownership of securities or otherwise, in any matter currently known to be acted upon at the meeting of Agrium shareholders other than the election of directors.
SOURCE Jana Partners LLC
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Sep. 4, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 443
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 529
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Sep. 4, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 144
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 979
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 227
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 4, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 271
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
Sep. 4, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 233
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 4, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 121
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 297
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 110
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 503
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 4, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 402
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 433
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,618
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Sep. 4, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 666
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Sep. 4, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 337
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Sep. 4, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 218
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
Sep. 4, 2015 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,050