Potash seeks to raise Israel Chemicals stake to 25 percent

Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:03am EST
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By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer maker Potash Corp (POT.TO: Quote) is seeking permission from Israeli authorities to raise its stake in rival Israel Chemicals (ICL.TA: Quote) to 25 percent, a government source said.

"Potash Corp has requested approval from the government to raise its stake to 25 percent," the source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters on Monday, confirming a report in the Calcalist financial daily.

Potash (POT.N: Quote), the world's largest fertilizer manufacturer, holds 13.9 percent of ICL's shares valued on the market at 6.5 billion shekels ($1.7 billion). An 11.1 percent stake has a market value of about 5.23 billion shekels.

Shares in ICL, the world's sixth-largest potash producer and the second-largest company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, were up 5 percent to 37.65 shekels in afternoon trade.

A spokeswoman for ICL said the company does not comment on matters relating to its shareholders.

Potash last acquired ICL stock in 2010 when it bought about 2.5 percent.

ICL is a strategic company which has exclusive rights to some of Israel's most valuable natural resources, including Dead Sea minerals. The government was given a golden share in ICL when it was privatized and as a result government approval would be required for Potash to raise its stake.

Barclays Capital analyst Joseph Wolf said Potash's request is not surprising, noting it has a strategy to own good potash assets and already holds 30 percent of Arab Potash Corp, which mines the Dead Sea from the Jordanian side.   Continued...