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Jan 19, 2022

Fertilizer giant Nutrien may be a takeover target for BHP: Analyst

Nutrien remains tight-lipped on departure of two CEOs in eight months

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The world’s top fertilizer producer could be a takeover target for BHP Group after a “peculiar” CEO change earlier this month, according to research from Gordon Haskett.

The surprise exit of Nutrien CEO Mayo Schmidt to start the year after only eight months on the job suggests the company is struggling with figuring out what it wants to do, Don Bilson, head of event-driven research at Gordon Haskett in New York, said Wednesday by phone.

Nutrien has been previously touted as a potential partner for BHP at its Jansen mine in Saskatchewan and the company is positioning itself for a return to large-scale M&A. 

Nutrien was formed in 2018 from the merger of two Canadian agriculture firms, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan and Agrium Inc. BHP abandoned a previous takeover attempt of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in 2010 after the Canadian government said it didn’t meet the requirements of the Investment Canada Act to bring “net benefits” to the country.

A former Canadian official who blocked BHP from acquiring the country’s biggest potash miner has said publicly a deal would face better odds this time if resuscitated.

“One would think the time is right for NTR’s board to consider its options,” Bilson said. “Obviously, NTR wouldn’t need to find a new CEO if it is sold, and it just so happens that a predator that tried to buy a big piece of NTR once before is looking again.”

Nutrien has declined to comment on the reason for Schmidt’s departure. Ken Seitz, who headed the company’s potash segment, will lead the company as it searches for a new CEO. Shares of Nutrien are down almost 3 per cent in 2022 in Toronto trading.