After months of sometimes fractious suspense, giant Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton has conceded defeat and will no longer pursue a merger with fertilizer producer PotashCorp.
Instead, BHP will be spending a bit of its $12 billion cash hoard to engage in a previously paused share buyback program.
As it stands, PotashCorp (POT) now looks likely to go its own way unless a serious merger offer that values the company at more than $39 million emerges. Shares of the company are still up 24% from where they were before the BHP offer.
Previously, interests ranging from Native Canadian groups to government-backed Chinese and Indian chemical companies were touted as gearing up to make a bid for POT, but as yet none have materialized.
The abortive merger attempt ended up costing BHP roughly $350 million — a fairly stunning 12 cents per share — in preliminary financing costs.
As it stands, BHP is now free to develop its own massive potash assets without fear of infringing on Canadian or other regulatory authorities’ anti-monopolistic concerns. When the company’s Jansen mine gets into production, it will be the biggest single potash project in the world, with roughly 3.37 billion tons of the increasingly strategic fertilizer component in its reserves.
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