The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has cleared a BHP (BHP
) bid to buy Potash Corporation (POT
), but that hardly matters. Authorities in the fertilizer company's home country of Canada may not approve the potential transaction at all. And it looks less and less like BHP will be the only bidder. The giant Chinese conglomerate Sinochem is in the early stages of raising the capital necessary to make an offer of its own for all or part of Potash. The South China Morning Post reports that Sinochem
has begun to talk to banks about funding. Sinochem, until recently owned directly by China's central government, could also probably turn to Beijing for funds.
The Potash board continues to gamble that a white knight will save it from a BHP Billiton buyout, but if no such savior comes along, Potash stock could take a terrible tumble. The BHP bid is worth $39 billion, which has driven the Potash stock to over $146, far above the current offer price of $130 a share. Potash shares traded at just above $111 before the offer, and haven't been above $150 since September 2008.
Media reports say that Sinochem has retained Citigroup (C
) and Deutsche Bank (DB
) to advise it about a possible Potash bid. The fact remains that the market valued Potash at a much lower level than BHP Billiton did. That means their current offer may be awfully rich.