Report mulls impact of BHP bid for Potash

AN INDEPENDENT report on the impact of a takeover of Canada’s PotashCorp will today reignite the country’s debate over the implications of such a move, as expectations of a Chinese-led counterbid to BHP Billiton’s $39bn (£24.7bn) offer begin to dwindle.

The report by the Conference Board of Canada will make no recommendations, though it will assess the respective implications of a bid from a large corporate like BHP, a state offer from China, and a takeover by an investment board or sovereign fund.

It comes as Canadian authorities continue to mull over a decision on whether a takeover of the fertiliser giant would be of “net benefit to Canada” – a key requirement under the country’s Investment Act.

There has been widespread speculation over the emergence of a Chinese bid since BHP launched its hostile offer in August, though reports over the weekend suggested interest from the East is cooling. China’s government is thought to be unwilling to put up more than around a quarter of the funds needed to block BHP’s $130-a-share offer, while attempts by state chemical firm Sinochem to court potential co-investors are said to have fallen on unreceptive ears.

On Friday, BHP filed a motion in a Chicago court, asking it to dismiss a lawsuit brought by PotashCorp over a week ago. PotashCorp claimed BHP fed the market misleading information in order to drive down potash prices and allow it to make a low-ball offer. But BHP said the complaint “offers only implausible, uncorroborated and largely irrelevant speculation”, adding that shareholders have access to all the relevant information to make a decision on the deal.