Israel wants details on Potash Corp. bid for Israel Chemicals Ltd. – by Pav Jordan (Globe and Mail – November 3, 2012)

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Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. has been asked by Israeli authorities to clarify its intention to acquire parts or all of Israel Chemicals Ltd., one of the country’s largest companies and a key supplier of potash to Europe.

Israel’s Finance Ministry told the Canadian fertilizer giant that it would only make a recommendation on a potential merger once a detailed application is submitted, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

The ministry could not be reached for comment about the report, which came a day after statements from Tel Aviv that there was no deal under consideration.

Saskatoon-based Potash Corp. already holds a 14-per-cent stake in ICL, a $16.4-billion company and one of the few major producers of the crop nutrient that is not part of the world’s two marketing groups. The other major supplier to Europe is K+S, which is also independent.

Most of the world’s potash supply is in the hands of Canpotex, the international marketing arm of producers that include Potash Corp., Mosaic Co. and Agrium Inc., or Canpotex’s Russian counterpart Belarus Potash Co., the trading joint venture of Uralkali and Belaruskali.

Acquiring ICL would put key state assets into the hands of the Canadian fertilizer giant at a time when it is already targeting organic growth. It would also provide Potash Corp. with access to the European market, where it is not currently present, and help offset falling demand in China and India, among the world’s largest consumers of potash and other fertilizers.

Potash Corp. confirmed this week that it held talks with the Israeli government, including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss raising its stake in the company, but it has not commented further.

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