BHP Billiton Ltd. has itself to blame for Ottawa's decision to reject its hostile takeover offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., says the head of the fertilizer giant who fought hard to fend off the $39-billion bid.
In one of his first media interviews since Ottawa denied the takeover almost three months ago, Potash Corp. chief executive officer Bill Doyle said the Australian mining giant "got in their own way" when they launched the bid to buy one of Canada's resource champions.
"Had they come with just a little bit of humility they might have had a different outcome," Mr. Doyle said in an interview with The Globe and Mail on Thursday.
One of the major missteps, according to Mr. Doyle, included talk about breaking up the Canpotex potash marketing arm that provides revenues to the province of Saskatchewan. That discussion was the catalyst for the province's concern over the BHP bid, and helped form its decision to recommend Ottawa turn it down. Officially, Ottawa ruled the takeover would not be a net benefit to the country.
"Had they come in and shown respect for the province of Saskatchewan, the tax needs of the province ... Rather than come in and say 'We have never produced a tonne or potash but we are smarter than you and we'll teach you the error of your ways' ... That didn't go over real big," Mr. Doyle said.
"The strategic nature of the resource. That was a key consideration, but I also think BHP ... they got in their own way."
BHP declined to comment when contacted on Thursday.
BHP pulled its $130 per share offer for Potash Corp. days after Ottawa turned it down in early November. Since then, Potash Corp. shares have risen about 35 per cent as a result of rising demand for fertilizer to boost crop production as farmers try to cash in on rising prices.
Mr. Doyle called the lift in the stock "a real vindication for our fight. They were trying to steal the company," he said of BHP's bid, echoing comments he made during the takeover battle that lasted nearly 100 days.
"They got too cute on the price. You get greedy, you get too cute and you end up losing the deal."
During the takeover battle Mr. Doyle said repeatedly that BHP "will not be the only bidder" and that the company had been talking to "a number of third parties" about alternative offers.
Many investors were skeptical after some industry players believed to be interested in owning potash assets ruled themselves out of the race. Also, no other offers came forward. Still, Mr. Doyle insists to this day that potential bids were brewing during the takeover fight, they just weren't ready to make it official until Ottawa ruled on BHP's offer.
"No one believed it, but we had other people that were in the wings waiting to see if they got a yes," Mr. Doyle said. "If they got a yes we were definitely going to have other interested parties come to the table because it's just too important."