Australian PM Gillard Raises BHP's Potash Bid With Harper at G-20 Meeting

Canada’s decision to block BHP Billiton Ltd.’s acquisition of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. was discussed at a meeting this week between Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a spokesman for the Australian government said.

Gillard raised the issue with Harper during this week’s Group of 20 summit in Seoul, because the two countries have a long history of investment, the spokesman said on condition he not be identified because the meeting was private. He declined to give further details.

Harper’s government on Nov. 3 rejected Melbourne-based BHP’s $40 billion bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, saying the proposal doesn’t provide a “net benefit” to Canada. Under Canadian law, BHP has 30 days from the date of the ruling to appeal.

Harper said Nov. 4 the decision “is clearly in the best interests of the Canadian economy,” and that it was “a rare case where even a large number, if not most, of the people in favor of foreign investment opposed this decision.”

Industry Minister Tony Clement, who made the decision, said the government’s ruling was “principled” and based on Canadian law, rather than a “political” one.

Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg today the industry minister “has made the Canadian government’s position clear.” Soudas said he was unaware whether Harper and Gillard had discussed Potash in Seoul.

The Canadian government has declined to give reasons for its rejection, saying it has to wait until a 30-day appeal process is completed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Theophilos Argitis in Seoul at targitis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

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