Potash on hunt for a white knight

CANADIAN fertiliser firm PotashCorp yesterday signalled its intention to court potential “white knight” bidders, after mining giant BHP Billiton turned hostile with its own $40bn (£25.6bn) offer.

PotashCorp has roundly rebuffed its suitor’s preliminary overtures, describing the $130-a-share offer as “grossly inadequate”.

Sources close to the Canadian firm yesterday indicated it would now actively seek to court rival bidders, playing down suggestions from BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers that his company is the only credible player in the running. One said: “They are certainly not the only ones in town. Given PotashCorp’s positioning, it is going to look pretty attractive to a whole lot of people.”

Mining giants Rio Tinto and Vale are widely expected to run the rule over a potential deal, given their obvious financial firepower. Other analysts suggested that Chinese companies are likely to look very hard at striking a deal with PotashCorp, particularly those like Chinalco which are state-controlled, given the strategic allure of a company with the power to control food supplies to an exploding world population in the future. City experts also rubbished claims by BHP Billiton that its current $40bn bid is the “only offer on the table”, predicting that the firm is ready and willing to dig deeper into its pockets to seal the deal.