Eric Reguly is the European Business Correspondent for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.
BHP Billiton’s $39 billion (U.S.) bid for Potash Corp. is unofficially dead. Ottawa’s rejection of the offer has triggered a flurry of half truths, outright falsehoods and general hysteria from the usual political, business and media quarters. Herewith are some of the myths, and my responses to them.
Ottawa’s (tentative) rejection of the deal sucks because BHP was making a big, fat “investment” in Canada:
No investment is created equally. The best investments are the ones that bring fresh capital, and fresh thinking, to the deal. In this case, BHP’s proposal to buy Potash Corp. was not an investment per se; it was merely substituting one bucket of capital (BHP’s) for another (Potash Corp.’s). The Canadian company doesn’t need BHP’s capital any more than Potash Corp. boss Bill Doyle needs to stuff another $100-million into his holiday fund. Potash Corp. has never had any trouble raising capital; no company with a killer product and a decent business plan does. It became the top fertilizer player on the planet all by itself and ownership by BHP would not necessarily accelerate its growth plans; on the contrary, it might slow them down because BHP has zero fertilizer experience or working fertilizer assets, meaning it could not offer management expertise or synergies.