Inside the company, it’s called the “100-day war.”
That’s how Potash Corp. chief executive officer Bill Doyle described BHP hostile takeover bid in his first public appearance since the Canadian government scuttled the deal last month.
Speaking at an investor conference in New York Wednesday, Mr. Doyle said he was glad the episode was over and hoped the experience wouldn’t be repeated in his lifetime.
He said the takeover duel taught the company’s executives valuable lessons. “We learned a lot about tactics and about dealing with fabrication[s] and addressing certain situations we never thought would arise,” he said.
“The best defence you ever have in a hostile takeover is performance,” he added, noting the company managed to deliver a substantial increase in earnings in the third quarter.
Mr. Doyle said BHP’s offer for Potash was a testament to the company’s unique strengths in the fertilizer industry. “Going forward we know we have an extraordinarily valuable enterprise [and] that we can deliver even more value,” he said. “We know we’re in a ‘show me’ market right now, and we will show you.”
In a slide presentation, Mr. Doyle highlighted the positive dynamics for the potash business in 2011, which he expects to be an “extraordinary” year, thanks to healthy demand worldwide, especially from China and India.
“You are seeing probably the best fundamental [agricultural] market in terms of profit incentive for farmers across the board, around the world, that I’ve ever seen,” he said. To take advantage of that situation, farmers will need to restock their supplies of fertilizers.
Rising demand will translate into higher prices, though Mr. Doyle said he favoured gradual increases over rapid ones. “We don’t like our customers to have to drink out of a fire hose when a water fountain is nearby,” he said.
In a question-and-answer session, Mr. Doyle took a brief swipe at BHP. Asked about the Australian firm’s plan to develop the Jansen potash mine in Saskatchewan, he responded with frank skepticism. “I’ve had my doubts about that project since the beginning,” he said, noting it was “very, very expensive” with an unusually long time frame before it reached full capacity.
“I may not be the most objective person in the room when it comes to BHP,” he allowed, prompting laughter from the audience of analysts and investors.
Companies & investments Mentioned In This Article (2)
POT-T 43.07 -0.85
-1.935% 873,074 BHP Billiton Limited
BHP-N 67.38 -0.96