BHP eyed as potash bidder

MINING giant BHP Billiton might finally get its chance to buy part of a major potash producer after agribusiness Cargill yesterday signed a deal to sell off its majority stake in fertiliser producer Mosaic.

Cargill plans to offload its 64 per cent stake in Mosaic, valued at about $24bn (£15bn), to free up cash for the Cargill family and allow them to diversify their holdings while keeping the firm private.

The shares in Mosaic will first be offered to current investors in the company, with some then sold on the secondary market over time.

BHP is likely to top the list of prospective buyers, having had its $39bn bid for Potash Corp squashed by Canadian authorities. The miner is keen to get a foothold in the lucrative fertilisers business.

There will be strong competition for the shares, however, with potash and phosphate fertilisers becoming hot commodities globally due to rising food demand.

Vale, a rival miner, is likely to look at the opportunity, as could several firms in Asia.

The Mosaic sell-off has been approved by its board and that of Cargill, though it is still to be voted upon by the rest of Mosaic’s shareholders.