POLITICS

PotashCorp in takeover talks with Israeli chemical firm

10/31/2012 10:49 EDT | Updated 12/31/2012 05:12 EST
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is in talks with the Israeli government about taking over Israel Chemicals.

PotashCorp already owns more than 13 per cent of the Israeli firm, making it ICL's second-largest shareholder as it is. Earlier this year, the company attempted to increase its stake to 25 per cent before abandoning the plan because of regulatory hurdles.

"That was taking a very long time and was really an undefined situation in terms of what they were looking for, and so after months of going through that, we just decided to withdraw that," PotashCorp chief executive Bill Doyle said in June.

"But, you know, we're keeping all of our options open," he said. On Wednesday, it emerged that Doyle has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the idea of Potash formally merging with the $15-billion firm.

"The company confirms it is aware that Canada’s Potash is in talks with various government agencies that included a meeting with the prime minister regarding examining the possibility of merging ICL with Potash," ICL said in a statement to the Tel Aviv stock exchange where its shares trade.

Deal could cost $13B

PotashCorp confirmed the meeting in a similar release. The Saskatoon-based fertilizer giant says no deal has been formulated, nor would it make any assurance any deal can be reached.

Among numerous other fertilizer assets, ICL currently controls about 11 per cent of the world's potash industry, with six million tonnes produced annually. ICL shares gained almost five per cent to 4854 on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. At those prices, for PotashCorp to increase its stake to 100 per cent, it could cost upwards of $13 billion.

PotashCorp shares gained slightly on the news, up a little over one per cent to trade at $40.40 on the Toronto Stock Exchange

PotashCorp was the target of a multibillion-dollar takeover offer from Australian miner BHP Billiton in 2010 that was ultimately nixed by the federal government.

Canada stopped that deal under the Investment Canada Act. Any takeover of an Israeli company would require similar government approval under the Government Companies Authority.