BHP said to be after Potash Corp again
Shares in Potash Corp. (TSX, NYSE:POT), the world’s second-largest producer of the fertilizer, soared as much as 6.6% in Toronto on Thursday to $22.18, closing at $21, on fresh rumours that BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) had made an unsolicited takeover offer for the Canadian miner.
According to The Fly website, the word among traders was that the Saskatchewan-based miner had hired an investment bank to analyze the proposal.
In 2010 the Canadian government’s rejected BHP’s $40 billion hostile takeover bid for Potash Corp. saying the offer failed to meet the criteria of providing a net benefit to the country. Analysts believed at the time the move would deter any potential suitors from approaching the company in the future.
But ever since BHP has been developing its own Canadian potash mine — the Jansen project — in Potash Corp’s backyard, and has already invested about $3.8 billion on it.
And while the Melbourne-based firm is sinking shafts and installing some infrastructure, it has not fully committed itself to the project, nor received board approval for Jansen, which is expected to begin operations sometime “in the decade beyond 2020.”
The mine would be a game-changer in the industry, as it is expected to generate 8 million tonnes of potash a year, which would amount to nearly 15% of the world’s total.
To put that figure in perspective, the Mosaic Company’s (NYSE:MOS) Esterhazy mine is forecast to generate around 6.3 million tonnes per year after the completion of an ongoing expansion. In comparison, most of the province potash operations, which are among the world’s largest, have an output of 3 to 4 million tonnes per year.
BHP has also said it would not join Canpotex — the overseas marketing arm of Saskatchewan’s three largest potash producers — and would set instead its own sales strategy. In that sense, Jansen and BHP would also be disruptive to the Canadian potash market.
Prices for the fertilizer ingredient have tumbled amid increased production and as farmers spend less on fertilizer amid lower agricultural commodity prices.