Alistair Dawber: Textbook tactics – but they don't always work

Bid. Rejection. Go hostile. For BHP Billiton, and Marius Kloppers, the $38.5bn (£25bn) bid for PotashCorp must feel like Groundhog Day.

Mr Kloppers' tactics in trying to land the Canadian fertiliser giant are textbook: make an offer, and wait for others to move. But the tilt at PotashCorp is not the first time BHP has used this line of attack.

Three years ago, and months after BHP's closest rival, Rio Tinto, indebted itself up to the gills buying another Canadian company, the aluminium giant Alcan, Mr Kloppers launched an audacious $135bn raid on Rio.

During 2008, the two traded arguments until the credit crisis, and a raft of terrified regulators, put an end to the deal. Although both now say the focus is on their Australian iron ore joint venture, speculation that BHP has not fully given up on its rival won't go away. Rio has spent the last two years shedding the debt pile and, as analysts have pointed out, if BHP was attracted to Rio with the debt, she must look a lot prettier without it.

It has been argued that Mr Kloppers won't get the chance to go after more M&A if he can't pull off the PotashCorp deal. While the financial crisis could not have been predicted, the failure to land Rio Tinto caused embarrassment, not least when it was revealed that BHP had splashed out $450m on fees, getting nothing in return.

Mr Kloppers sidestepped questions yesterday on how much BHP was paying in fees to the assortment of bankers, lawyers, accountants and PR advisers working on the PotashCorp bid. Asked if he believed his job could be threatened if the bid were to collapse, he said: "This deal is about creating value for shareholders, it goes beyond me. It will be not be measured by my ego, or anyone else's."

He has indeed created a lot of value in his three years as chief executive and asking him to fall on his sword would be a big mistake. But there are enough analysts who believe BHP's shareholders are not well served by the latest M&A adventure, and that he will have some difficult questions to answer if it turns out to be a flop.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk