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Potash designs on Israeli producer unlikely to bear fruit

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Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. would love to buy a control stake of ICL Israel Chemicals Ltd. – it owns 13.8 per cent and has long coveted more – but knows it faces a tough fight. At an investor conference on Tuesday, Potash chief financial officer Wayne Brownlee dismissed opposition in Israel to such a potential deal as "fear of the unknown."

Those fears are far from unjustified and likely to doom any potential takeover attempt by Potash, I argued here last October. Since then, Potash has shut down two of its operations in New Brunswick for eight weeks, surely increasing fears among Israeli potash employees of what would become of them under Potash's continuing efforts to match supply with market demand, even when it results in facilities operating well below capacity in order to protect commodity pricing.

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Dreams of a larger empire may prove elusive to the biggest player in the Saskatchewan potash patch, but there's always the prospect of rising demand and buoyant prices this year to console them.

Sean Silcoff is a contributor to ROB Insight, the business commentary service available to Globe Unlimited subscribers. Click here for more of his Insights, and follow Sean on Twitter at @seansilcoff.

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About the Author

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

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