By Ryan Mallough - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Oversupply and falling prices are hurting the once-promising industry
In 2010, when Ottawa blocked Australia’s BHP Billiton’s purchase of Potash Corp., the business was booming. Prices for the fertilizer seemed to be ever rising along with global demand. After BHP’s bid was rejected (on the grounds it wouldn’t be of net benefit to Canada), the company made plans to open its own $14-billion mine in Saskatchewan. Potash mining worldwide ramped up.
But now the industry is experiencing a major hangover, with overcapacity and falling prices. Potash now sells at $425 per tonne, nearly half its peak price of $860 in 2009. Last month, Potash Corp. temporarily closed two Canadian mines for eight weeks, affecting 600 workers. BHP may be forced to halt construction of its new mine; one Bank of Montreal analyst noted that new capacity won’t be needed “for at least another decade.” Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 8:47 PM - 0 Comments
Booming economy makes land of living skies a place to set down roots
REGINA – The smell of smoked meat wafts through Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill.
For diners in the northwest Regina restaurant, it’s mouthwatering. For chef and owner Brett Huber, it’s a dream come full circle.
“When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was get out of here, but now that I’m back it’s like this is where I want to be,” he said.
Huber was born and raised in Regina. He moved to Vancouver when he was 24 for culinary school and worked around British Columbia, as well as in England.
But home was calling.
“I wanted to start a family and I wanted to basically start a restaurant.”
Huber and wife, Kristi, moved to Regina in 2007 — about the time Saskatchewan became the “it” province, the place to be in Canada.
People from every part of the country were flocking in. Statistics Canada figures showed at the time that Saskatchewan’s population growth in 2007-08 was the strongest since the early 1970s. For the first time, the province led the pack when it came to interprovincial migration.
Employment was strong and a booming economy — bolstered by potash, oil and gas — made Saskatchewan a rags-to-riches story.
“Unknown to me, the boom was happening while I was away. Immediately once I got back to Regina I realized there was a much different feel here in the province,” recalled Huber.
“It was an exciting time to be in Regina and Saskatchewan, for that matter.”
In 2008, it appeared the boom might be over. The recession dragged down economies around the globe.
Premier Brad Wall warned in March 2010 that Saskatchewan — the province that initially defied the economic downturn — would have to make tough decisions to balance its upcoming budget. The government was facing a challenge because of plummeting revenue from potash, a pink mineral used in fertilizer.
Resource prices are still soft and are affecting Saskatchewan’s bottom line. A budget update released in November noted a drop of more than $400 million in potash and oil revenue. However, the government is forecasting a small surplus and Wall is quick to note that Saskatchewan was the only province to present a balanced budget this year.
The premier said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press that the recession forced the government to be more cautious with spending.
But he said there’s evidence that the land of living skies is still where people want to set down roots.
Census data released last February by Statistics Canada shows the population in the metropolitan area of Regina increased by eight per cent since the last census in 2006. Saskatoon, the largest city in the province, increased in numbers by 11.4 per cent.
“We can look at the number of people that continue to move here. We have 80,000 people over the last five years and we sort of pushed over some important records on population growth this year,” said Wall.
“We see investment. We see companies like Mosaic declaring their Canadian headquarters and moving 80 to 100 jobs here to the capital city.
“So you don’t have to take the government’s word for it. We’re still the ‘it’ province because people are voting with their feet and companies are voting with their investment.”
Mosaic, one of the world’s leaders in potash crop nutrients, is to be the lead tenant in a new office tower that opened in Regina on Dec. 7. It’s the first new office tower in the capital in 20 years.
While there might be more office space, housing has been a problem since Saskatchewan’s economy took off.
Prices have soared since 2007 and rental units are in demand as more people move to the province. Regina, at one per cent, has the lowest vacancy rate of all major centres in Canada.
For the first time, a homeless shelter has been established in the city of Estevan, a hub of oil and gas activity in southeast Saskatchewan near the U.S. border.
Brenna Lea Nickel, a minister with St. Paul’s United Church, said jobs are a big draw.
“What we’re seeing is that folks are coming from all over the country and in some cases even from the United States. They seem to get the word that, OK ,there’s lots of jobs to be had in Estevan, but they’re not getting the word that there isn’t any short-term or affordable housing,” said Nickel.
“I shouldn’t say not that there isn’t, but it can’t keep up with the growing population.”
Brenna said the Salvation Army estimates as many as 15 people are sleeping in their cars each night and as many as 40 people could be sleeping outside or couch surfing.
“Most of these people are coming from a home in some way and are hoping to make a better start here and just don’t realize until they get here that it’ll be so hard to find some place to stay.”
Despite the housing challenges, reports suggest that Saskatchewan is on solid footing.
The Conference Board of Canada said in its provincial outlook for autumn 2012 that the western provinces remain in the best position to ride out the current global economic weakness.
It also said that for the most part, western Canadian provinces have been relatively shielded from the fiscal and economic troubles lingering in external markets. The economies of Saskatchewan and Alberta in particular have performed strongly, and their near-term prospects are more favourable than those for the rest of the country.
“There’s opportunity here and there might not be that opportunity elsewhere,” said Wall.
“There’s a quality of life here so if people come check out the province, they’ll know that there’s an excellent education system and in health care, we’re trying to make the improvements we need so that people aren’t on wait lists as long as they used to be.
“I think it’s the whole package,” Wall added.
Huber said the opportunity to open Jack Keaton’s, which is named for his two eldest children, a year ago was both “scary” and “exhilarating.”
Huber believes moving back and starting the restaurant were good decisions.
“People are optimistic about what the future holds here” he said.
“Years ago, it was quite the opposite. It was people were just depressed and, you know, ‘Nothing ever changes here.’ This was the last place in the world to get any great news.
“It’s very evident now that people are moving to the province instead of moving away.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 5:01 PM - 0 Comments
Calgary’s White Pride march is a dud, while Ignatieff pitches protectionism
The annual “white pride” march by Calgary neo-Nazis was poorly attended, as about 15 black-clad skinheads turned out to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their own fashion. The marchers were, as usual, outnumbered by 200 anti-racism demonstrators at a separate downtown event. Dwindling attendance suggests Calgary’s neo-Nazi colony might be succumbing to infighting and, with its leader in jail for uttering threats, legal troubles too.
Run to ground
After nine days at large, William Bicknell, the six-foot-six, 500-lb. convicted murderer, was recaptured by the RCMP in northwest Alberta. Bicknell, who beat a female crime confederate to death with a baseball bat in 2001, overpowered a lone escort during a day trip outside the Drumheller Institution on March 10. He was caught near the remote town of Sexsmith when a female hostage eluded him and phoned police.
If this be suicide
Conservative MPs in and around Quebec City faced pre-election questioning as the Tory government’s decision not to fund sports arena construction appeared increasingly non-negotiable. A group of MPs had set rumours flying last September by strutting theatrically in the uniform of the city’s departed Nordiques, but local hopes—along with those of arena-seekers in Edmonton and elsewhere—were dashed by a final declaration: no Ottawa dough for pros. Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume denounced the decision as “political suicide” for the province’s Conservative candidates. If so, they will have perished in a worthy cause.
Resurrecting the unheard
An Ottawa-born musicologist at the University of North Texas is reviving the hitherto-lost music of composers persecuted by the Nazis. Professor Timothy L. Jackson recovered scores buried in Germany by Paul Kletzki, a Jewish musician who fled in 1938; the first recording of Kletzki’s piano concerto was nominated for a Grammy this year. Jackson also led the rediscovery of Reinhard Oppel, an influential anti-Nazi composer who was forced to join the army at 62 and died in 1941. Oppel’s oeuvre was found in margarine boxes in a garden shed.
Are wide lapels next
In a speech to steelworkers in Nanticoke, Ont., Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff took a ’70s line on foreign-investment reviews, suggesting that outside capital should face a “process that is transparent and penalties that have teeth,” including forced asset sales. “If they come to Canada,” Ignatieff said, “they have to play by Canadian rules.” With the government having wound back the clock by blocking BHP Billiton’s purchase of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, protectionism feels like the winner in an election that hasn’t happened.
No mere symbol?
A Calgary man was arrested in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab for killing his wife with a kirpan, the ceremonial knife orthodox Sikh males are obligated to carry. Gurdial Singh, 57, was visiting India for his son’s wedding when he allegedly slit his wife’s throat during an argument over property. Police said Singh, who is said to have moved to Calgary from India about a year ago, injured another son with the kirpan before fleeing.
News for wildebeests
International institutions, including the World Bank and the German government, are desperate to stop Tanzania from building a highway through the northern tip of Serengeti National Park. Surveyors are already at work on the road, which zoologists say would disrupt the migration of herbivores that has made the wildlife preserve famous. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete says the route is needed for economic development in poor villages near the park’s rim. The discussion thus has the unfortunate logic of a hostage-taking, but the protection of the Serengeti is worth almost any price.
Sweet and sour
Cocoa traders faced a standoff with Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who controls the African republic despite losing elections last year. Traders hoping to pressure Gbagbo stopped exporting cocoa from Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, in January. But the united front is threatened by fears that Gbagbo could seize or destroy cocoa stocks, and one Hong Kong-based trading ﬁrm has hinted that it may break ranks. Savour that next chocolate bar a little extra.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
COYNE: Why we need fundamental reforms to our foreign investment laws
They say the stakes are high in this potash business, but really, I’d no idea. Apparently, if BHP Billiton’s bid for Potash Corporation goes through, a part of Saskatchewan will have to be dug up and moved to Australia.
Or what else can Ralph Goodale possibly have been on about? The normally phlegmatic Liberal deputy leader—and the party’s only Saskatchewan MP—had been in high flight for weeks over the deal. As federal officials pondered whether the takeover was of “net benefit” to Canada, he appeared to enter the stratosphere.
“Never before has there been a takeover of this magnitude,” he quivered, denouncing the deal as a “fire sale” of one of our “key national champions.” And not just a single company: “Canadians will lose control of an entire industry.” And not just the industry: “53 per cent of the world’s reserves [of potash] are in Saskatchewan, and that’s about to move into foreign ownership, presumably permanently.” To sum up: “At stake here is the global supply of a strategic resource vital to food production for generations to come.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 1:01 PM - 0 Comments
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
In opposing the Potash Corp. takeover, is the province protecting Canada’s interests, or its own bottom line?
Saskatchewan, says its premier, Brad Wall, is in the world spotlight. “If you were watching the Google trends back in August,” he said at an Oct. 21 speech in Regina, “when the BHP Billiton hostile takeover story broke, you would have seen a real spike in terms of the number of stories with the word Saskatchewan. In fact, we broke our own record in terms of the number of media stories around the world involving the word Saskatchewan.”
The previous record, he added sheepishly, was set after the province’s beloved Roughriders lost the 2009 Grey Cup by having 13 players on the ﬁeld for a key play. “So there have been some unintended beneﬁts to all of this.”
Not everyone is so sure that attention is a good thing right now, as Wall strives to block the hostile takeover of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (PCS) by the Anglo-Australian mining giant. BHP Billiton would derive a bonus from the deal, since it is already building the world’s largest potash mine near the village of Jansen, 150 km east of Saskatoon. The first ore from the site is not expected until 2015 at the earliest, but with BHP and PCS merged, the new company could immediately subtract the capital costs of Jansen from royalty payments that PCS mines are currently contributing. Moving forward, that writeoff is expected to save BHP and cost the Saskatchewan treasury about $200 million a year over the next decade.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 6:53 PM - 0 Comments
Industry Minister Tony Clement’s decision to block Australian mining giant BHP Billiton’s $38.6 billion bid for Saskatchewan’s Potash Corp. leaves a policy vacuum that Prime Minister Stephen Harper must soon fill.
Right or wrong, Clement’s move looks to have been improvised in the face of intense political pressure. He stressed that it was his call alone, and not based on a recommendation from his departmental officials after they scrutinized the deal’s terms.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
Says deal would not be ‘of net benefit’ to Canada
The federal government has announced it will not approve BHP Billiton’s hostile takeover bid for Saskatchewan-based Potash Corp. In a statement released Wednesday, federal Industry Minister Tony Clement said he was “not satisfied that the proposed transaction is likely to be of net benefit to Canada.” Ottawa’s decision leaves the Australian-owned company 30 days to modify its $40 billion takeover bid to satisfy the federal government’s concerns. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall had threatened to sue the federal government if it approved the deal, claiming it would cost his province billions of dollars.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
Industry Minister Tony Clement turned up at a waiting podium just now and, after taking a few moments to build the drama, announced that BHP Billiton bid for PotashCorp does not constitute a “net benefit” for Canada. Seems BHP Billiton will have 30 days to resubmit, should it so desire.
Official statement after the jump. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 1:37 PM - 0 Comments
Moscow’s request expected to go unheeded
The Russian government asked local fertilizer companies earlier this month to prepare a joint bid for Saskatchewan’s Potash Corp. that would rival BHP Billiton Ltd.’s $40 billion offer for the company. However, OAO Acron, Russia’s third-largest producer of nitrogen soil nutrients, has already said it won’t be following the Industry and Trade Ministry’s advice. “It’s absolutely senseless for Russia to spend $40 billion on acquiring Potash Corp.,” company chairman Alexander Popov told Bloomberg. “If the country has a spare $40 billion, it would be much more effective to put it into the Russian economy.” Ottawa is set to rule on BHP Billiton Ltd.’s offer on Wednesday. While there have been reports of rival bids Potash Corp. emerging from India, China, and Russia, none have materialized so far.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Once more, Ralph Goodale stood and beseeched the Prime Minister to explain himself, at least as it pertains to the potential sale of Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp. To his credit, the Prime Minister stood and did just that. Which is to say, he rose and explained that he and his position were in this case entirely irrelevant.
“I can assure him,” Mr. Harper assured Mr. Goodale, “the Minister of Industry will make a decision according to a legal process.”
Unsatisfied, Mr. Goodale turned to the Minister of Agriculture, wondering if perhaps the honourable Gerry Ritz, the elected representative for a larger parcel of land in Saskatchewan, might have something to say about the matter. Mr. Ritz leaned forward as if willing to respond, but it was Tony Clement who stood, the Industry Minister so emboldened as to refer to himself in the third person.
“There is a process under the Investment Canada Act which leads to the assessment by the Minister of Industry of the net benefit to Canada test,” he said of himself. “That is what is being done and that will be delivered to the people of Canada in the due course of time.”
One will forgive Mr. Clement if he lingers for the fullness of this allotted time, if he revels in this newfound regard. For in this moment, Tweeting Tony is quite possibly the most powerful man in Ottawa. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 1:09 PM - 0 Comments
As per the Investment Canada Act, when a decision is made it will be made by me in my capacity as Minister of Industry, not by the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s Office concurs that whatever happens next will be Mr. Clement’s responsibility.
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
New details surface in court
BHP Billiton Ltd. laid eyes on Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. well before it launched its US $38.6-billion hostile bid earlier this year, court documents show. Evidence emerging from the lawsuit Potash Corp. filed against BHP in a U.S. District Court in Illinois last month includes an internal recommendation that the Australian miner buy the Canadian potash producer dated as early as 2006, when Potash Corp. was valued at US$ 13 billion. The Saskatchewan-based company is using the documents to build its case that BHP misled investors on both its takeover offer and its plans for entering the potash business. BHP denies the allegations, and released a statement calling the lawsuit “entirely without merit.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 6:58 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. As he made his first intervention, Michael Ignatieff insisted on staring down Stephen Harper’s empty chair. Perhaps it’s to the point now that the Liberal leader sees Mr. Harper’s dismissive mug wherever he looks. Perhaps he simply found the green felt of the House seats a soothing sight to gaze upon.
His question this day had to do with the potential sale of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Incorporated to BHP Billiton Limited and all of the national, economic and social implications within and around that transaction. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “yesterday when the Prime Minister was asked about the possible sale of Potash Corp he basically shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Australia, America, who cares?’”
In full, the Prime Minister had said, “This is a proposal for an American-controlled company to be taken over by an Australian-controlled company.” Whether Mr. Harper was shrugging at the time, I do not remember. But given that he is given to shrugging reflexively at almost all propositions, it is certainly a distinct possibility. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 3:27 PM - 0 Comments
Foreign miner hires three former advisors to Canadian prime ministers
Australian mining giant BHP Billiton is preparing for a political battle as it proceeds with its $39 billion hostile bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the potassium rich salt used in fertilizers. With Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall expressing doubts about the desirability of letting the mining firm fall into foreign hands, BHP has hired three former advisors to Canadian prime ministers as lobbyists in anticipation of a political challenge to any successful bid. They are: Michael Coates, an advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last three election campaigns, William Pristanski, an aide to former Conservative leader Brian Mulroney and Bruce Hartley, who formerly worked as an assistant to Jean Chretien. Among the province’s concerns is that BHP’s purchase would break up the marketing company for potash that represents Canadian producers to foreign buyers, leading to lower prices and, potentially, less government revenue through royalties. Any sale would need to be approved under the Investment Canada Act, which can block purchases that don’t demonstrate a “net benefit” to Canada. However, Ottawa has so far taken a non-interventionist approach to takeover deals involving big resource companies. In fact, the only time it has used its power to block a deal under the Act was when a U.S. firm tried to purchase the space and satellite division of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
Citigroup says BHP will not overpay and Sask. isn’t convinced about the deal
According to Citigroup Inc., BHP Billiton Ltd.’s $40 billion offer for Potash Corp. may not proceed because the bidder is unlikely to overpay and there’s little chance that a competitor will emerge. BHP stock is currently factoring in a bid of about $145 a share, $15 above the current offer. But BHP may need to offer $150 a share to win control of the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Potash Corp. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also isn’t convinced the deal for the world’s largest producer of potash is in the best interests of Canadians. He’s met with the head of global mining giant BHP Billiton but he remains skeptical about the company’s hostile takeover bid. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government will also take a restrained approach to the possibility of a foreign takeover.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
BHP’s bid to buy Potash Corp. has put the global spotlight on Saskatchewan’s business potential
Bill Doyle has done his part to put Saskatchewan on the map. He’s led one of the country’s most valuable companies, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, for the past decade and doesn’t shy away from superlatives when describing the business of mining the pink, potassium-rich salts that are used in fertilizers. “When you really think about it, our business is indispensable to humankind,” boasted Doyle of the dusty Prairie industry in a video uploaded on YouTube earlier this year. “There is no advancement on the face of this Earth without feeding people.”
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, September 6, 2010 at 8:04 AM - 0 Comments
COYNE: A willingness to cash in shows a focus, not on past glories, but on future opportunities
You knew from the start who would lead the opposition to BHP Billiton’s $40-billion takeover bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. It would be the same crew who always raise the alarm over any foreign takeover, even one from so unmenacing a direction as Australia.
Sure enough, within days, there they all were: the Council of Canadians (“We need a federal public inquiry, not just on this takeover but on the takeover of Canadian mining companies in general”), the United Steelworkers Union (“the most recent economic jewel swept up in the relentless surge of foreign takeovers”) and . . . the Globe and Mail?
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
Takeover would be biggest in Canadian history
Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton has launched a $40 billion hostile takeover bid of the Canadian firm Potash Corp, the world’s leading miner of potash. If BHP succeeds, the takeover would be the biggest in Canadian history. BHP’s initial offer was rejected, with Potash Corp. calling it “grossly inadequate” and saying it “substantially undervalues” the company. The latest offer comes as demand for fertilizer is expected to increase with the rising consumption of meat in emerging markets. In a statement, BHP said, “The acquisition will accelerate BHP Billiton’s entry into the fertiliser industry and is consistent with the company’s strategy of becoming a leading global miner of potash.”
By Duncan Hood - Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 11 Comments
How CEOs became obscenely overpaid, and what can be done about it
It was a bitterly cold February morning in Toronto just over a year ago when Gary Hawton witnessed a miracle. As CEO of Meritas Mutual Funds, a socially responsible investing company in Kitchener, Ont., he had been watching executive pay levels surge from generous to ridiculous over the last 15 years, and he’d had enough. As of 2007, the collective compensation of Canada’s 100 best-paid CEOs had crashed through the billion-dollar mark, and average individual pay packages were topping $10 million apiece. As a professional investor, Hawton knew that most CEOs were simply not worth that kind of money.
He sent letters to all the big Canadian banks asking them to allow shareholders to vote on CEO pay packages. He spoke out at shareholder meetings and talked up the issue to the press. At first, he was completely ignored. But Hawton, a former investment banker raised with strong Christian values, is a bit of a crusader. So last year, he decided to try a different strategy. He would introduce a shareholder’s motion that, if passed, would pave the way for a vote on executive pay whether the banks liked it or not. He knew it was a long shot. He knew it would take at least two years, quite a lot of money and infinite reserves of patience. He also knew that his mission would quite likely make him the financial world’s Don Quixote.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 11:35 PM - 789 Comments
I was wondering how long it would take for the accusations to fly that…
I was wondering how long it would take for the accusations to fly that Potash Corp. is a victim of short sellers. Not long, apparently. On Thursday a Merrill Lynch analyst downgraded the stock from a buy to underperform (that’s wishy-washy for sell, by the way) because of fears of a slowdown. When the fertilizer maker’s shares lost 35 per cent of their value—wiping billions from its market cap and helping to drive down the TSX by a whopping 800 points—money managers and investors quickly pointed the finger at those scourges of the investment world. In one Globe story a money manager said short selling was the only possible explanation for the rout. “Is there any reason to take $30 off Potash Corp.?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 10:18 AM - 2 Comments
Back in August I wrote a piece for the magazine on the inflated value…
Back in August I wrote a piece for the magazine on the inflated value of Potash Corp., the Saskatchewan fertilizer producer that briefly became Canada’s largest company by market cap. A quick recap: Those bullish on the stock pointed to the fast growing middle classes of Asia, and their desire to eat more meat and vegetables, as a sign that demand for potash (which is used to make fertilizer) could only go up. The stock’s promoters pointed to soaring food prices as evidence this was the case.
The bears, on the other hand, warned a “dot corn” bubble had formed in agriculture stocks.