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Energy mogul Murray Edwards has taken a 9.5 per cent stake in chemical maker Canexus Corp.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Energy mogul Murray Edwards has taken a 9.5 per cent stake in chemical maker Canexus Corp. as the company assesses a hostile takeover bid from Toronto-based Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund.

Mr. Edwards announced on Friday that he had boosted his position in the company to 8.9 per cent earlier this week, on the same day Chemtrade launched its unsolicited approach.

Since then, he has increased his holdings and is now Canexus' largest shareholder with a position valued at about $27-million. Invesco Advisers, Inc. is the next largest shareholder with a 7.5 per cent position.

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Chemtrade is offering $1.50 per share for Canexus or about $280.5-million. The target company's board has advised shareholders to take no action while it reviews the offer. The company said it would issue a circular on or before Oct. 19.

Canexus shares were up 1.3 per cent at $1.54 in midday trading Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange

Mr. Edwards is the billionaire behind oil sands giant Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and the NHL's Calgary Flames. His other holdings include Magellan Aerospace Corp., Imperial Metals Corp. and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns several ski resorts. He is also chairman of Ensign Energy Services Inc.

Last spring, he relocated from Calgary to London, England, a move that some tied to an increasing provincial and federal tax burden. However, Mr. Edwards played down that suggestion and said he was keen for a change of scenery. He did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Chemtrade said its offer is open until Jan. 18 next year. Its hostile bid comes after a previous takeover deal for Canexus by Superior Plus Corp. fell apart earlier this year.

Chemtrade, a supplier of sodium chlorate and other chemicals, in September offered $1.45 per share for Canexus. It subsequently hiked its bid to the current level - valued at $884-million including debt - and said it was prepared to pay $1.60 per share if Canexus cancelled a previously announced plan to issue $75-million in new debt.

Chemtrade said it was advised on Sept. 20 that the target's board had unanimously rejected its offer and that it had completed an upsized offering of $110-million of senior unsecured notes.

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It has accused Canexus of strategic missteps, including the construction of a rail-loading facility to transport crude oil from Alberta that the company later sold at a substantial loss.

Meanwhile, Canexus has said Sterling Global Value Fund Inc., which owns more than 5 per cent of the company's shares, is seeking to install a slate of five directors to replace the current eight-member board.

Canexus on Friday said it had appointed David Collyer, past president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as its chairman. He replaces Hugh Fergusson, who the company earlier this week said had died in his sleep at the age of 68.

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