Potash Corp rejects BHP Billiton's $39 bln bid

Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:01pm EDT
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Potash Corp spurned an unsolicited $38.6 billion takeover offer by BHP Billiton, raising the prospect that the Anglo-Australian miner could launch a hostile bid to take the top position in the global fertilizer industry.

The offer -- the biggest of the year in any industry -- was dismissed by Potash Corp as "grossly inadequate," though the company said it might consider a more attractive proposition.

Investors, anticipating that BHP's $130-a-share offer would eventually rise, pushed Potash Corp's New York-traded shares to as high as $144.40, well above the bid price.

"I am not saying that we are opposed to a sale, but what I am saying is we are opposed to a steal of the company," Potash Corp Chief Executive Bill Doyle said on a conference call shortly after Potash Corp revealed the offer.

Doyle's stance is likely to test the determination of BHP CEO Marius Kloppers -- who presented the offer to him on Friday in Chicago -- to make BHP the leader of a new mining segment.

Analysts and investment bankers said they expected BHP to make a higher bid. "They are certainly not going to make one offer and walk away if it's rejected," said Canaccord Genuity analyst Damien Hackett.

Potash Corp launched a shareholders rights plan that would make it more expensive to acquire the company.

Already one of the world's largest miners, BHP is looking to capitalize on a resurgence in the global fertilizer industry following a collapse in demand during the global economic slowdown. Potash Corp is the No.1 global supplier.   Continued...

<p>Mill manager Josh Wheeler examines a pile of processed potash at the Mosaic Potash Colonsay mine storage facility in Colonsay, Saskatchewan in this file image from September 24, 2009. REUTERS/David Stobbe/Files</p>