October 31, 2012–Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT), the world’s largest fertilizer producer, is in talks with the Israeli government about taking control of Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) in a deal that may be worth more than $13.5 billion.
Executives of the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company have held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and met with government agencies about a “possible merger,” Israel Corp., controlled by the country’s billionaire Ofer family and the biggest shareholder in Israel Chemicals, said in a statement to the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange today.
Potash Corp. Chief Executive Officer Bill Doyle, who defeated a hostile $40 billion BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) bid in 2010, will have to convince the Israel government and the Ofers to sell in order to win control of one of the few natural resources held by the Middle Eastern nation. A takeover of Israel Chemicals would be at least three times bigger than the largest deal completed in the country.
“In the short term this is a positive for ICL and fantastic for Israel Corp., (ILCO) but I think it will be very hard to get an approval for the deal,” Gilad Alper, a senior analyst at Excellence Nessuah Investment House Ltd. in Ramat Gan, Israel, said today by email. “As Israel faces early elections we think it is unlikely the prime minister will approve this deal now and risk being criticized for selling natural resources and risking the delicate ecology of the Dead Sea.”
The talks come as declining Dead Sea water levels prompt criticism from campaigners about fertilizer makers in Israel and Jordan siphoning water for their operations. Netanyahu called for early elections three weeks ago amid a budget deadlock.
Netanyahu’s office declined to comment in a mobile phone text message. A spokesman for Potash Corp. couldn’t immediately be reached for comment outside of normal business hours.
Potash Corp. is seeking permission to buy 100 percent of Israel Chemicals, which has a market value of 61 billion shekels ($15.7 billion), Calcalist reported earlier.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (A) acquired Iscar Metalworking Cos. for $4 billion in 2006 in the country’s largest deal. The Ofers’ businesses include investments in shipping, banking, chemicals, oil refining and construction. Their personal fortune was estimated at $10.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine, making them Israel’s richest family.
The Potash Corp. CEO recently met with Netanyahu in Israel to lobby for the deal, according to Calcalist…Read More>>