Netanyahu to Meet With Canada’s Baird

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will meet today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. seeks to buy Israel Chemicals Ltd. in what would be the largest Middle Eastern takeover.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Tel Aviv time, said Rick Roth, a spokesman for Baird. The Canadian minister was scheduled to meet earlier with Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the finance ministry said in an e-mail.

Baird met with Israel Corp. Chairman Amir Elstein at a restaurant yesterday in Tel Aviv, daily newspaper Calcalist reported. Israel Corp. holds a 52 percent stake in ICL, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Baird “will try to soften the opposition in the government to the deal,” Richard Gussow, an analyst at DS Securities & Investments said today by phone. “It is obvious he is here also to do public relations for the Potash-ICL deal.”

The proposed acquisition of ICL, the nation’s second-largest publicly traded company, has sparked opposition from ICL workers and politicians including Lapid. Yesh Atid, Israel’s second-biggest political party, has criticized the deal for its potential to harm the Negev region.

Potash Corp., which is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, held talks in October with the Israeli government about raising its stake in ICL from 14 percent. Potash Corp. is preparing concessions ranging from job guarantees to a local stock-market listing to allay concerns, a person familiar with the plans said in March.

ICL dropped 0.9 percent to 48.26 shekels at the close in Tel Aviv, giving it a market value of 61.4 billion shekels ($16.9 billion). Potash Corp. buying the 86 percent of Israel Chemicals it doesn’t already own would be the largest takeover in the Middle East, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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