Thousands of Israelis protest against Potash Corp intended acquisition deal

Increasing efforts from Canada’s Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (TSX,NYSE: POT) to boost its stake in Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) in order to reach a controlling position in that firm has sparked an outbreak of resource nationalism over the Middle Eastern potash group, reports Financial Times (subscription required).

On Monday, hundreds of workers blocked the entrance to ICL’s plant, by the Dead Sea, and over 1,300 workers have gone on strike, Bloomberg reports, quoting union leaders from Dead Sea Works Ltd.

Potash Corp., the world’s largest fertilizer producer, is determined to increase its 14% current stake in the Israeli chemical company and become its majority owner if not the sole one, insiders told The Canadian Jewish News. 

Israeli politicians have been widely quoted in the media saying that the sale of ICL to a foreign company is equivalent to “abandon[ing] residents of the Negev region and a slap in the face of every citizen of Israel.”

At ICL’s plant, things are not different: reports that doors and walls are covered with red bumper stickers featuring an upset Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside the words: “Bibi – don’t sell the Dead Sea to foreigners.”

ICL is the world’s fifth-biggest potash producer by volume and Israel’s second-largest industrial firm. The company has one of the industry’s lowest production costs, as potash —the key fertilizer ingredient— is not mined from the earth, but extracted from the Dead Sea’s water, which is evaporated in vast ponds located close by.

If Potash Corp. succeeds in its intended acquisition of Israel Chemicals, the Canadian miner would control about 25% of global production capacity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Dead Sea and its minerals were, until Israel’s recent discovery of natural gas, the nation’s only noteworthy natural resource.

Image from a 2009 protest, courtesy of Street Photography

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