BHP Billiton pursuit of Potash over

GLOBAL mining giant BHP Billiton last night killed off its protracted $39bn (£24bn) pursuit of Potash, the world’s biggest deal this year, and said it would return $4.2bn (£2.6bn) to investors through a share buyback.

The move comes after Canada blocked BHP’s bid for the world’s largest fertiliser maker on 3 November and gave BHP a month to demonstrate the takeover would benefit Canada.

BHP gave up the fight in its third straight failure to seal a major acquisition under chief executive Marius Kloppers, and bowed to calls from some shareholders for a return of capital, signalling it has limited opportunities for other big takeovers.

Kloppers has long said the company would prefer to spend its cash pile on development projects and acquisitions rather than giving it back to shareholders.

In a statement released late last night, Kloppers said: “Unfortunately, despite having received all required anti-trust clearances for the offer, we have not been able to obtain clearance under the Investment Canada Act and have accordingly decided to withdraw the offer.”

BHP said Ottawa was asking for too many concessions beyond the more than $1bn worth of undertakings the company had already offered as benefits to Canada.

BHP said it would book $350m (£217m) in costs for the Potash deal.