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BHP's Potash bid done, Clement says


CBJ – Nov. 15 – BHP Billiton Ltd. has ended its bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., Industry Minister Tony Clement confirmed in a statement yesterday.

“I have been informed that BHP Billiton has withdrawn its application for review and informed its shareholders of this decision ... this terminates the review process because there is no longer a transaction to review,” Clement wrote in the statement.

“I would like to take this opportunity to recognize BHP Billiton's good faith and integrity throughout this process.

“The (Investment Canada Act) is in place to ensure that major foreign investments in our economy are likely to be of net benefit to Canada. Our government recognizes, however, that there may be ways to improve the review process.

“Any changes deemed necessary will be addressed by our government in a responsible and appropriate manner.”

In a statement released today, BHP insisted “the proposed undertakings offered by BHP Billiton in a signed, written submission to the Minister of Industry were unparalleled in substance, scope and duration, reflecting the importance of potash to Canada and Saskatchewan.”

In the statement, BHP CEO Marius Kloppers said the sinking of the Potash bid didn't mean the company would retreat from its interests in the fertilizer mineral or the province of Saskatchewan – including its $12-billion Jansen mine.

“Unfortunately, despite having received all required anti-trust clearances for the offer, we have not been able to obtain clearance under the Investment Canada Act and have accordingly decided to withdraw the offer,” he said.

“We remain committed to Canada and we plan to develop a significant presence in the potash industry in Saskatchewan. As part of those plans we will continue to progress our Jansen project and other development opportunities.”

In internal company emails made public last week during court proceedings between BHP and Potash, Kloppers told a subordinate that “dramatic” changes were needed to keep Jansen on budget, or the project would be mothballed, according to reports.

BHP will decide whether to move ahead on Jansen, some 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon, by late 2011.

Clement denied the $40-billion bid for Potash (NYSE, TSX: POT) on Nov. 3. Melbourne, Australia-based BHP (NYSE: BHP) has said it had ensured important jobs will stay in Saskatchewan to get on the federal government's good side and get the deal approved in the face of strong opposition from the likes of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

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