Canada promises "own analysis" on BHP-Potash bid

Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:43pm EDT
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will decide whether it will allow BHP Billiton's $39 billion takeover bid for Potash Corp to proceed based on its own analysis, the industry minister said on Friday, a day after the province of Saskatchewan demanded that Ottawa scupper the deal.

"We have noted Saskatchewan's position and we have noted the bidder's position, and we are in the process of deliberations," Clement said.

"So we will do our own analysis and it will be done on our schedule," he said after addressing a Toronto conference.

Under the Investment Canada Act, the federal government can only allow a takeover bid by a foreign company to proceed if it deems that a deal would bring a "net benefit" to Canada. November 3 is the deadline for a ruling.

Potash, once owned by Saskatchewan, has rejected the Anglo-Australian miner's $130-a-share offer since it was presented August. It has sought to assure investors it expected higher bids to emerge, though none have materialized.

On Thursday the government of Saskatchewan, Potash Corp's home province, urged the government to block BHP's plan to buy Potash. Officials say the province will lose billions of dollars in revenue if a deal goes through.

Clement said the government would not be pressured by either side. "Obviously there is a process involved and the test that we employ under the Investment Canada Act is the net benefit to Canada test," he said.

"That is the test we will employ here. We are at the stage of acquiring information from the bidder and others."

Potash Corp shares edged lower on Friday afternoon to $141.02 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is still well about BHP's offer price, suggesting BHP may have to sweeten its bid to carry the day with investors.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Writing by Pav Jordan; Editing by Frank McGurty)

 
<p>Industry Minister Tony Clement speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>