Canada's Potash rejects 38 billion dollar offer from BHP

17th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Canada's Potash Corp., the world's largest fertiliser producer, said Tuesday it had rejected an unsolicited bid from Australian mining giant BHP Billiton worth 38 billion dollars.

The company said the BHP offer of 130 dollars a share in cash, a 16 percent premium, was "grossly inadequate" given Potash Corp.'s prospects.

Potash Corp. at the same time adopted measures designed to prevent a hostile takeover of the company.

In a statement on its website dateline Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the firm said its directors "thoroughly reviewed BHP Billiton's unsolicited proposal ... and concluded that the proposal is grossly inadequate."

It said the offer "substantially undervalues Potash Corp. and fails to reflect both the value of our premier position in a strategically vital industry and our unparalleled future growth prospects."

Potash Corp. chairman Dallas J. Howe said shareholders needed to be "aware of this aggressive attempt to acquire their company for significantly less than its intrinsic value," describing the BHP offer as "an opportunistic effort to transfer that value to its own shareholders."

The company said its business held a "premier position in a strategically vital industry."

BHP Billiton, based in Australia, is the world's biggest miner, producing coal and iron for the global steel industry as well as a host of other metals and commodities along with oil and gas.

Its fortunes have been built on recent years on soaring demand from China's booming economy but it also has huge interests worldwide.

BHP said on its website in response that it "continues to review its options and will make a further announcement in due course."

To head off another, this time hostile bid from BHP, Potash said it would adopt measures allowing ordinary shareholders to buy more shares cheaply should an outside party build up a single stake in the company of 20 percent or more.

This 'poison-pill defence' would undercut the 20 percent holding of a hostile suitor, making it much more expensive and difficult for them to buy up an ever increasing amount of shares so as to win control.

In the event of a hostile bid, the company said management would this way have "sufficient time to explore and develop alternatives to enhance shareholder value, including competing transactions that might emerge."

The plan requires regulatory approval.

BHP recently paid 320 million dollars for Athabasca Potash Inc, also based in Saskatchewan which holds more than half the world's reserves of potash, the basic ingredient in fertiliser.

© 2010 AFP

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