Potash Corp. says BHP is being ‘unethical


Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. said suitor BHP Billiton is calling its customers “to sow seeds of doubt and confusion about the future” of the Canadian company.

Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, launched a hostile $130-a-share takeover on Aug. 18 after Potash directors rejected its offer. The Canadian company said it’s in talks with several other companies instead.

Potash Corp’s sales president, Stephen Dowdle, said in a letter to customers filed with regulators this week that they recently learned that Chris Ryder, director of Potash marketing for BHP Billiton, has begun calling Potash customers. Dowdle called it “inappropriate and highly unethical.”

Potash, the world’s largest fertilizer company, has rejected BHP hostile $38.5 billion takeover offer as wholly inadequate.

Dowdle said they can only assume that BHP’s “purpose is to sow seeds of doubt and confusion about the future of PotashCorp by raising questions about our ability to do business across the nutrient spectrum as well as the future and makeup of our sales organization.”

“While we are disappointed that BHP Billiton would attempt to undermine our efforts to serve you, you should know that we remain 100 percent committed to being your partner and your go-to source for your fertilizer needs,” Dowdle said in the letter dated Aug. 30.

Ruban Yogarajah, a spokesman for BHP Billiton, declined to comment on Potash’s letter on Tuesday.

Potash has said its share price had been depressed by the global recession. But it believes it is worth more because its shares should rise as growth in agriculture boosts demand for potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer.

Meanwhile, Lei Wang of Thornburg International Value Fund, a PotashCorp investor, said if BHP Billiton succeeds in taking over PotashCorp, some of the Canadian company’s investments in other fertilizer firms may be up for grabs.

“BHP is never content to be a minority stakeholder in others’ businesses,” Wang said.

PotashCorp has a 22 percent stake in Sinofert Holdings Ltd., a Chinese fertilizer distributor. Sinofert’s state-owned parent, Sinochem, has been rumored to be weighing a possible counter-offer to BHP’s.

PotashCorp also has a 14 percent stake in Israel Chemicals Ltd., the world’s sixth-largest producer of potash, and a 28 percent stake in Jordan-based Arab Potash Co.

Yogarajah said in an e-mail that at this stage BHP Billiton has no plans to sell any Potash Corp. assets.

Shares of Potash traded down 74 cents to $145.90 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. BHP shares were down 24 cents to $66.26.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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