September 23, 2010 / 10:09 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 2-BHP bid for Potash Corp clears US antitrust hurdle

* BHP clears first regulatory hurdle in Potash Corp bid

* Says bid still contingent on other regulatory approvals (Adds details from BHP’s statement, background; All figures in U.S. dollars)

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, Sept 23 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton (BHP.AX)(BLT.L) has cleared the first regulatory hurdle in its bid for Canada’s Potash Corp (POT.TO), but any potential deal still faces major regulatory obstacles, especially within Canada.

BHP, the world’s largest mining company, said on Thursday it has received antitrust clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to proceed with its $39 billion hostile bid for the world’s largest fertilizer maker.

However, BHP said the offer is still contingent on other regulatory approvals. The bid is likely to face much tougher scrutiny in Canada, where the country’s competition watchdog has already requested additional information.

Last month, the Anglo-Australian miner launched its hostile $130-a-share offer to acquire Potash Corp. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company flatly rejected the bid as “grossly inadequate” and it has filed a lawsuit against BHP in an attempt to stymie a takeover.

In Canada, the bid faces review under the Canada Competition Act and under the Investment Canada Act.

The request by the Canadian Competition Bureau for more information, earlier this week, prompted BHP to extend the deadline on the tender offer by a month to Nov. 18.

The Investment Canada review is expected to be BHP’s biggest regulatory hurdle, because it must prove that its offer is of net benefit to Canada and, perhaps, that there is no risk to national security.

BHP Chief Executive Marius Kloppers toured Canada this week, meeting with politicians both at the provincial and federal levels, to convince them of merits of the BHP offer.

Kloppers has made clear that the takeover process is likely to continue at least until the end of this year, which means it will likely extend its bid beyond the current deadline.

“BHP Billiton remains confident that the offer will receive all remaining requisite regulatory approvals in due course,” the company said in its latest statement. ($1= $1.03 Canadian) (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Frank McGurty and Richard Chang)

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