Fertilizer giants Potash Corp, Agrium talk merger

Canadian authorities may look upon the merger favorably, Warner said, in contrast to Australia's BHP Billiton Ltd.'s bid to acquire Potash Corp., which was blocked in 2010 after a review under the Investment Canada Act - something that won't be required with an Agrium-Potash Corp. deal.

News of the talks, first reported by Bloomberg, pushed PotashCorp's (TSX:POT) stock up $2.40 or 11.5 per cent to close at $23.30 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while Agrium's (TSX:AGU) stock rose by $8.56 or 7.4 per cent to $125.09.

The potential merger is the latest in a string of mega deals in the agricultural chemical market. While Potash Corp.is essentially a mining company, extracting potash from below ground and processing the commodity, Agrium got 77 percent of its revenue previous year from its farm-retail business. Agrium has retail stores which it uses to sell agricultural products and services.

"(A merger) will make them a better force to compete on a global scale", said Mohsin Bashir, portfolio manager at Stone Asset Management Ltd, which owns Agrium shares.

Potash Corp would have direct access to fertilizer customers through Agrium's retail presence. Crop prices have also hurt, with corn Cv1 and wheat Wc1 at seven-year and 10-year lows respectively, giving farmers less incentive to maximize production with fertilizer.

Merging with Agrium would give Potash a direct channel to USA farmers through Agrium's retail stores, which as of May accounted for 17 percent of the US market.

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Potash producers are struggling with the recent collapse in prices and many are mothballing operations and shelving future development programs.

PotashCorp abandoned a plan to take over German rival K+S AG past year after its efforts were rebuffed by management amid regulatory concerns, and after the drop in potash prices prompted the Canadian company to rethink the economics of the deal.

"Agrium does operate in different segments that they have greater exposure to, outside of potash production". Agrium is headquartered in Calgary, Canada.

The rise in share prices left PotashCorp with a market capitalization of $19.56 billion and Agrium worth $17.28 billion.

Chris McKay, PotashCorp load-out supervisor at the Cory Mine, examines potash inside one of the storage facilities near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Wall told reporters Tuesday he spoke to the chief executive officers of both companies and was assured that the interests of the people of Saskatchewan would be at the forefront of their discussions.

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