BHP and Potash Corp battle heats up

[] — BHP BILLITON PLC(BHP), the world’s largest resources group, said it plans to later this week file a motion to have Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan’s (Potash Corp) lawsuit dismissed.

A federal court hearing on PotashCorp’s motion for an injunction to block BHP from proceeding with its hostile $40bn takeover offer has been scheduled for November 4.

This is after Potash Corp, the world’s largest producer of potash, last week moved to legally block the takeover bid.

Potash Corp filed a complaint with a US District Court on grounds that BHP had violated federal securities laws and should therefore be prohibited from proceeding with its $130-a-share offer for its company.

“We believe the case is without merit and we intend to contest it vigorously, including by filing a motion to dismiss later this week,” BHP said in a statement.

It also indicated that the hearing was unlikely to prolong the closing of its offer.

BHP last week extended the deadline for Potash Corp shareholders to tender their shares by almost a month to November 18.

This was after a request from Canadian competition authorities for more information on its offer.

“We are pleased that the court has scheduled a hearing on November 4, well in advance of the November 18 scheduled expiration of our offer,” said BHP.

It also said it was “gratified” that the court made clear that the Potash Corp discovery proposals are excessively broad.

According to Wall Street Journal, US judge David Coar granted Potash’s request for an evidence discovery process, but said Potash’s proposed parameters for gathering information on BHP was too broad.

The judge left the issue of narrowing the scope of the discovery to a federal magistrate.

Potash Corp’s legal documents ask the court to stop BHP from proceeding with “its attempt to wrest majority control from Potash Corp shareholders in a coercive $40bn hostile tender offer – an offer built upon false and misleading statements”.

It said BHP was trying to convince shareholders of the merits of its offer without providing background of the offer, disclosing the conditions and uncertainties inherent in that offer, and its plans for the company’s business if it acquires control.

In a nutshell, it said the offer was built upon BHP’s manipulation of the perceived value of its company.

PotashCorp is in the meantime preparing to launch and overview of its business and markets in early October.

No doubt a move to strengthen its case against BHP, a preview of the overview details what makes the company “unique and valuable”.

The company said it has built the world’s largest fertilizer enterprise by capacity on potash resources and strategic investments in offshore potash related companies, as well as world-class phosphate and nitrogen assets.

“We are the world’s largest producer, with 20% of global capacity and unmatched growth potential. By 2015, we expect to have 23% of global capacity at our Canadian operations,” it said.