Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Employees at Israel Chemicals Ltd. plan to protest a proposed takeover by Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., in what would be the Middle East’s biggest acquisition, the head of a workers committee said today.
“We are protesting against the intention of the government to approve a merger with Potash,” Armond Lankry, chairman of the workers committee at Dead Sea Works Ltd. a unit of Israel Chemicals, said in a phone interview with Bloomberg today. “If the deal goes through, workers will shut down all plants.”
The demonstrations come as Calcalist reported today that Potash Corp. is prepared to pay more than $20 billion for control of the company and that officials met in the past week with Israel Corp., which holds a controlling stake in Israel Chemicals. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Oct. 31 with Potash Chief Executive Officer Bill Doyle about a possible merger with the company in which it already has a 13.84 percent stake. The government can block takeover bids of the country’s second-largest company by market value by using its so-called golden share, allowing the state to prevent a takeover to protect natural resources.
Around 5,000 workers from the country’s 10th-largest private sector employer will demonstrate at major intersections in the country’s southern Negev district to oppose the sale, Lankry said. Workers are concerned a merger would lead to job losses as the company’s extraction of minerals from the Dead Sea to make potash and fertilizers is transferred to Jordan’s Arab Potash Co. in which the Canadian company has a stake.
“ICL is not engaged in any negotiations with Potash Corp. or any other company regarding this matter,” Israel Chemicals said in an e-mailed statement today. “To the extent that any dialogue exists regarding the merger between the companies, it has occurred between the Government of Israel and Potash Corp.”
Lankry said the initiative has the support of members of parliament and citizens of the Negev region, in which the plants are located. Earlier this month Labor party head Shelly Yachimovich said in a Facebook posting the sale of ICL to Potash would be “disastrous”.
“The company’s success in global markets is possibly the reason driving Potash Corporation’s interest in acquiring ICL.” said Neta Schoener, a spokeswoman for ICL. “In the event that any interested company turns to ICL, management will act in the best interests of the company, including the employees of the company.”
Boaz Stembler, a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Finance said today by phone there are no negotiations with Potash Corp. at the moment and Treasury officials did not meet with their representatives in the past week. Elad Cohen, a spokesman for Israel Corp. had no immediate comment on the Calcalist report today.
Israel Chemicals dropped 2.1 percent, the most since Dec. 31, to 48.08 shekels at the close in Tel Aviv today. Controlling stakeholder Israel Corp. declined 0.8 percent and the TA-25 benchmark index fell 1.9 percent.
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