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Cliffs cuts number of board nominees

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Mining company Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. is reducing the number of its director nominees to meet the recommendations of two proxy advisory firms, but its proxy fight with an activist investor appears to be continuing.

Earlier this week Cliffs took aim at Casablanca Capital LP, saying the activist investor was looking to strip the Cleveland company for parts and sell when prices are at a low point. At the same time, proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis & Co. recommended Cliffs' shareholders support at least most of the nominees from Casablanca.

Casablanca owns about 5.2 percent of Cliffs' stock, and it has pushed the company to cut costs and spin off some of its international assets. It has nominated six candidates for Cliffs' 11-member board.

Cliffs said Friday that it is trimming its slate of board nominees to seven from nine. The company said that making the reduction allows shareholders to vote for four Casablanca nominees and seven of its nominees, which it says meets the proxy advisory firms' recommendations. Cliffs also noted that this would still give it majority control of the board.

Cliffs previously said it would let Casablanca choose three new directors for the board, but the offer was rejected.

Casablanca was equally unimpressed with Cliffs' efforts to cut its slate of board nominees. The firm called it "a desperate last-minute ploy" and accused Cliffs of trying to prevent real change. Casablanca said that it believes shareholders should still vote for its nominees.

Cliffs' annual shareholders' meeting is scheduled for July 29.

Shares of the company rose 32 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $15.82 in morning trading. Its shares have fallen more than 40 percent so far this year through Thursday's close.

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