August 10, 2015 / 4:54 PM / 2 years ago

K+S says retail shareholders back rejection of Potash offer

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German salt and fertilizer company K+S AG (SDFGn.DE) says a survey of its retail investors shows they strongly support its rejection of a 7.9 billion euros ($8.6 billion) takeover offer from Canada's Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO).

K+S said on Monday it had surveyed retail, or non institutional shareholders, who hold about 30 percent of its shares, and that more than 84 percent of those who replied were in favor of rejection. About 28 percent of retail shareholders responded to its questionnaire.

K+S did not say what percentage of its total shares opposed Potash’s bid, according to the survey, but Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson said it was likely less than 10 percent.

Isaacson, who covers both companies, said in a note that K+S would likely get different results from its institutional stockholders, who own most of the company and who might jump at the offer.

"It's becoming seemingly inevitable that (Potash) will need to take its bid directly to shareholders," he said

A Potash Corp spokesperson declined comment.

"The prevailing view among (surveyed retail investors) is in line with that taken by the overwhelming majority of institutional investors that we are in touch with, and who also welcome the rejection of the Potash Corp proposal," K+S finance chief Burkhard Lohr said.

Potash Corp has been pushing to talk with K+S management despite the German company's initial rejection last month of the Canadian company's bid, which is worth 41 euros per share.

K+S shares traded up 1.2 percent at 37.53 euros, while Potash stock rose less than 1 percent in New York and Toronto.

K+S lacks the protection of a big anchor investor, with nearly all its shares freely traded on the stock exchange, and the results of K+S's survey provide the first real indication of how investors may respond to Potash Corp's approach.

Only about 4 percent of the more than 39,000 retail, or private, shareholders who participated in the survey said they would accept a 41 euros per share offer, K+S said.

"Our private shareholders have made their position clear," Chief Executive Norbert Steiner said in a statement. "They share the assessment of the K+S board of executive directors and supervisory board that the current Potash Corp proposal fails to reflect the fundamental value of K+S."

K+S said it had contacted all its 140,000 retail shareholders in mid July and more than 39,000 had participated in the survey.

($1=0.9145 euros)

Reporting by Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Jason Neely, David Holmes and Peter Galloway

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