Is a new, Chinese bid for Potash of Saskatchewan about to arrive?

09/22/2010 11:02 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

This week or next will see a bid from China for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT), Canada’s Globe and Mail is reporting.

The newspaper’s sources say Beijing is now deciding which of the proposed bids from China’s state-owned companies it should back. Pending Chinese national holidays beginning on October 1 argue for a decision this week or next.

Among the Chinese companies interested in topping the $38.6 billion bid by Australia’s BHP Billiton (BHP) for the Canadian fertilizer company are, according to the Globe and Mail, the state-owned chemical group Sinochem, which has proposed paying as much as $60 billion, and China Blue Chemical, a division of China National Offshore Oil Corp.

A Chinese bid has become more likely in recent weeks, in my opinion, as news reports have confirmed China’s swing this year to a corn importer from previous self-sufficiency in corn, and as the price of corn has climbed to $5 a bushel on forecasts of a slightly smaller harvest in the United States. China is known to want to assure a supply of fertilizer, a key ingredient if the country is to have any hope of increasing domestic food production on its limited base of agricultural land. (A $60 billion bid, though, seems way out of line, especially now that Potash has filed suit asking for an injunction that would halt BHP Billiton’s offer.)

BHP Billiton has refused to add to its bid, despite a response from Potash of Saskatchewan that called the price offered too low, until a second bidder actually puts an offer on the table.

The next week or two will show whether or not there is, as Potash has repeatedly said there would be, another bidder. A Chinese offer—and maybe even a report of a Chinese offer—will drive up the price of other fertilizer stocks.

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