BHP says failed Potash bid won't change approach

21:13 | 16/11/2010
Mining giant BHP Billiton Tuesday said the failure of its $39 billion bid for fertiliser-maker Potash Corp will not stop it pursuing other large high-quality assets.

BHP abandoned its bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan on Monday after the takeover was rejected by Canada -- the second recent setback for the miner after a $116 billion joint venture with Rio Tinto also collapsed.

Chairman Jac Nasser said BHP was disappointed that it was unable to acquire the world-leading manufacturer of fertiliser, but stressed that the rejection would not change his firm's "no pain, no gain" approach.

"We're not about to change from transactions that potentially involve tier one assets, large tier one assets, expandable, quality assets and change that to go after second tier, lower quality acquisitions," Nasser said.

"Don't look to us to be chasing smaller acquisitions of lower quality," he told the company's annual general meeting in Perth.

BHP walked away from its bid for Potash Corp after it was blocked by Canadian politicians, while its proposed tie-up with Rio to combine iron ore assets in Western Australia was rejected by European regulators last month.

In November 2008, its proposed $147 billion hostile takeover of fellow Anglo-Australian miner Rio also fell apart in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Nasser said while the company had invested time and money pursuing each of these options, the world's biggest miner believed that the potential returns had outweighed the risks.

"We don't like not doing what we set out to do," he told shareholders after being asked about the hundreds of millions of dollars BHP had lost pursuing the failed acquisitions.

"We don't appreciate the cost involved but that's just part of the cost of doing business.

"No pain, no gain with a lot of these transactions. This is fundamental to the way we do business. So I don't see it as wasted cost."

Nasser said if BHP was to continue its success -- which saw it post annual underlying earnings before interest and tax of $19.7 billion  in 2010 -- it would have to continue to invest in projects which met its strategy.

"We have 20 projects in our growth pipeline and expect to invest $15 billion  in capital expenditure this year," he said.

Nasser said that emerging economies in Asia were increasingly driving global growth, a theme picked up by BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers who tied the company's future success to its ability to seize new opportunities.

Kloppers said while there was a modest overall outlook for growth, BHP was encouraged by demand for its products from emerging economies -- which he said carried the risk of overheating.

"Presently, emerging economies are growing at approximately three times the rate of the developed countries and... are becoming more important to the global economy," Kloppers said.

"While Japan, the United States and the EU are finding it difficult to generate growth, overheating is in fact a larger issue in the emerging economies."

Kloppers said that the pull back in investments by rivals during the global slump meant that supply was lagging, creating favourable conditions for BHP.

The Perth meeting was targeted by dozens of protesters who questioned the company's environmental standards and plans to mine uranium.


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