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Canadian Fertilizer Giant Gets Hostile Bid From Australian Firm

The Melbourne, Australia headquarters of mining giant BHP Billiton. Scott Barbour/AP hide caption

toggle caption Scott Barbour/AP

It's safe to say, potash isn't something most people give much thought to.

Most people probably don't even know what it is. No, it's not the remnants of a marijuana cigarette. It's a potassium-based salt that's a major agricultural fertilizer. (I confess, I had to be reminded of that myself this morning.)

There's apparently big money to be made in potash, as reflected by the $38.6 billion all-cash or $130 a share bid announced Wednesday by the Australian-based metal and minerals-mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd to buy the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, in Canada.

Again, this was an all-cash bid. More proof that some companies survived the recession just fine.

Last time I checked, Potash's stock had shot up to more than $147 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. It had closed at $143.17 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Potash's board has rejected the unsolicited BHP bid as inadequate, fertilizing the field, so to speak, for a full-scale hostile-takeover battle.

BHP apparently wants to diversify out of its metals mining business and into fertilizers since everyone needs to eat.

Also, by acquiring Potash Corp., it would gain major leverage over an important agricultural product.

As The Wall Street Journal explains:

Potash is an important nutrient that replenishes soil and increases farmland's crop yield. Global potash supplies are relatively limited, and Potash Corp., based in the prairies of central Canada, controls about 20% of the supply.

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