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Posts Tagged ‘Saskatchewan’

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto growing in potash

October 6, 2011 Comments off

“Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining group, is re-entering the potash business through a joint venture with a Russian fertiliser producer which holds extensive exploration permits in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Rio will initially acquire a 40 per cent stake in nine blocks covering an area of 241,000 hectares currently held by North Atlantic Potash, a subsidiary of Russia’s JSC Acron. Under the deal, Rio can eventually raise its stake as high as 80 per cent.”

Source: Financial Times, September 28 2011

“Mining heavyweight BHP Billiton is “aggressively” pursuing potash projects in Saskatchewan along with its Jansen asset, the company said on Wednesday.

“Although these are at an early stage, the data acquired suggests they have the ability to support significant potential developments,” spokesperson Ruban Yogarajah said, adding that the combined properties could “at least” match Jansen’s planned output of eight-million tons a year.

BHP Billiton in June said it approved a further $488-million to develop Jansen, bringing its total investment in the project to $1.2-billion.”

Source: Mining Weekly, September 29 2011

Observations:

  • Approx. 33mln tons of potash are mined annually, with Canada accounting for approx. 30% of global production. With price per ton of around $400-$500 the global market totals $13-17bln annually.
  • Both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are planning to move or expand in the Potash industry. BHP Billiton already is operating in Saskatchewan and tried to make a big move by taking over PotashCorp last year. Rio Tinto sold its potash exploration projects in 2009, but tries to re-enter in a JV with a small Russian player.

Implications:

  • The potash market it currently dominated by 2 marketing ‘cartels’: Canpotex (PotashCorp, Mosaic, Agrium) and BPC (Belarusian Potash Company: Silvinit & Uralkali), which control close to three quarters of global sales and typically copy each others pricing agreements with large customers. The rise of the large diversified players in the business (apart from BHP and Rio, Vale is also building its potash business) could break the power of these cartels and might move the market to pricing based more on spot prices.
  • From a technology and production standpoint it makes a lot of sense to have diversified mining companies, specialized in running large scale extraction projects, operate potash mines. Only on the marketing and sales side of the business synergies will be hard to realize, but companies like BHP and Rio Tinto have the experience and size required to set up a strong marketing presence.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Canada Splits on Foreign Bid for Potash

November 2, 2010 Comments off

“Canada’s impending decision on the fate of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan has ignited a fierce national debate in a country known for its championship of free trade and laissez-faire attitude toward foreign takeovers.

Politicians from a wide spectrum are saying the government should not only veto the proposed sale of Potash to Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton, but also re-examine how Canada handles natural resources and foreign investment generally.

Some observers say that in its broadest sense, the debate reflects a much-needed discussion on how Canada should oversee the natural resources—such as oil and uranium—on which its economy is so dependent. Others say the disagreement highlights a dangerous wave of protectionism and nationalism fed by the global economic downturn.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, November 1 2010

Observations:

  • The main reason for the provinces to resist the acquisition is the loss of tax revenue, estimated to be $5bln over the next 10 years.

Implications:

  • A secondary argument used by the provinces is that BHP Billiton would gain a too large share of the market by the acquisition. However, as BHP doesn’t currently own a significant fertilizer business, this argument doesn’t hold for regulators. Furthermore, the potential changes to the pricing system that BHP would like to introduce would promote free trade rather than keep the current cartel system (from which the provinces are benefiting) in place.
  • Rumors of an increase of the bid by 10% in order to win over the required threshold of investors were smothered by other rumors that BHP would not increase its bid before the Canadian government would give its approval to the deal. In this way BHP manages to increase the pressure on the government via the shareholders of PotashCorp, that would get a good deal.
  • Most likely Harper will try to find a compromise by giving a conditional approval, with conditions including job security and arrangements to secure income for the provinces. In this way he will be able to defend the acquisition to the political audience while not setting international markets up against Canada.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Canadian province casts doubt on BHP move

October 20, 2010 Comments off

“The Canadian province of Saskatchewan is at odds with BHP Billiton over the Australian miner’s $39bn hostile offer for PotashCorp, raising the prospect that the deal might be rejected by the federal government.

A person familiar with the deal said on Tuesday that BHP had offered extra elements valued at about C$370m (US$359m) to demonstrate that the deal would be of “net benefit” to Canada, as required under the Investment Canada Act.

However, the province is holding out for more, specifically a one-off levy to go some way to make up for lost tax revenues that would result from the deal.”

Source: Financial Times, October 20 2010

Observations:

  • Although the province does not have the power to veto the acquisition, the opinion of the local government will influence the national regulator and government when they decide about the deal’s ‘net benefit to Canada’.
  • BHP has announced it is willing to locate the global headquarters for potash in Canada; a logical move, as the acquired assets would be much larger than anything BHP already owns in the business.

Implications:

  • Losses to the Canadian government are reduced tax revenues and the potential loss of managerial jobs (which is covered by BHP’s intent to establish a potash HQ). Benefit to the country would be higher stability of operational jobs and increasing investment power in the national potash industry, which could increase tax revenues in the long term.
  • It is unlikely that the national government will support Saskatchewan’s opinion, as the tax loss on which the opinion is based is only a relatively small and one-off temporary loss. The national government might decide to compensate the province for the reduced tax income.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

PotashCorp calls BHP’s behaviour ‘unethical’

September 1, 2010 Comments off

“The hostilities between PotashCorp and its suitor BHP Billiton escalated on Tuesday when the Canadian fertiliser producer accused the multinational miner of “highly unethical” behaviour.

Potash said that BHP had made unsolicited contact with its customers as part of BHP’s $39bn hostile bid for the Canadian company.

Stephen Dowdle, PotashCorp’s sales chief, said in a letter to customers that the company had learnt that BHP had ‘begun to cold call many of you’.”

Source: Financial Times, September 1, 2010

Observations:

  • PotashCorp complains about BHP Billiton calling the key customers of the company, trying to convince them about the value of the deal.
  • BHP has launched a campaign to win over stakeholders to sell their shares at $130. Marketing to other stakeholders like government, suppliers and customers is obviously part of the strategy to achieve a positive public opinion to the deal.

Implications:

  • BHP’s move to discuss the results of the acquisition with PotashCorp’s clients & suppliers is not strange in itself. Paying $39bln for the company without knowing the thoughts of key stakeholders would be rather naive. However, the ‘marketing objective’ of calling the stakeholders at this stage is obvious.
  • PotashCorp itself is not fully innocent of dubious practices either. When publishing the brochure to convince shareholders not to sell to BHP Billiton, the company announced talks were ongoing with various parties that could lead to other deals. This has been one of the main reasons for the share price to increase to $150, making a quick deal for BHP Billiton unlikely.
  • Most likely BHP will have to make a new offer around $145-$150 per share to get the required two thirds of the shares. This will cost the company an additional $4.5-5.0bln.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

BHP faces potash cartel backlash

August 27, 2010 Comments off

“Mosaic and Agrium, the partners of PotashCorp in Canada’s fertiliser cartel, have launched a campaign defending the industry’s pricing and marketing arrangements in a move that could impede BHP Billiton’s $39bn takeover bid for PotashCorp.

BHP has signalled it plans to use infrastructure such as port and rail facilities that belong to Canpotex, the cartel that comprises PotashCorp, US-based Mosaic and Agrium of Canada. “

Source: Financial Times, August 26, 2010

Observations:

  • The fertiliser cartel, which controls 70% of the global market in cooperation with the Russian cartel and PhosChem, is currently regulating supply in order to keep stable, high prices.
  • BHP is planning to operate PotashCorp’s mines at full capacity and has also indicated it wants to move the fertiliser market to a day-based pricing system.

Implications:

  • BHP will have to play according to the rules of the cartel at least in the first years after the acquisition (if it succeeds). The cartel shares logistical assets that are crucial for the Saskatchewan operations to operate at low costs. Breaking the rules of the game would seriously impede BHP’s access to these assets.
  • BHP’s incentive to break the rules of the game are grounded in the production cost curve. Lowering the global price would force many small operators (including Vale) out of business.
  • The move of BHP into the phosphate business will force the high cost suppliers to lower cost. This is the main reason various players are trying to prevent the acquisition from happening.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com