Potash bid causing shrugs, not stress in Saskatoon

Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:38pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Potash Corp of Saskatchewan has splashed its name on its home city's football stadium, the halls of its university, its inner-city food bank and even the lions' dens at the local zoo.

But now there's a new name in town, after Australian mining major BHP Billiton sponsored last winter's world hockey championship, took space in a new downtown office building and this week offered $39 billion for Potash Corp, in what would be this year's largest takeover to date.

At stake is control of the world's biggest producer of potash, the pink mineral farmers use to fertilize soil.

The bid shook markets and sent Potash Corp stock spinning above the offer price. But aftershocks are muted in the Prairie city of Saskatoon, where Potash Corp is based, but where BHP's community boosterism has softened any opposition.

BHP's bid would need Canadian approval, but neither the federal nor provincial government has signaled much concern.

"I think the people of Saskatchewan are fairly practical people," said Eric Cline, a former Saskatchewan industry minister and now a top executive at Shore Gold in Saskatoon.

"They have a sense that in some ways the province has not developed as quickly as they might have liked and they want to have opportunities for young people."

If its bid succeeds, BHP will be required by law to keep the head office of Potash's current operations in Saskatchewan, a city of 202,000 a six-hour drive from the western business capital of Calgary.   Continued...