PotashCorp not the only big deal on BHP’s radar

If you thought a deal worth $39bn would satisfy even the most acquisition-happy chief exec, you’d probably be wrong in the case of Marius Kloppers.

BHP Billiton’s chief exec is thought to be looking at a major oil and gas acquisition while at the same time working on the multi-billion deal to buy Canada’s Potash Corp, according to a story in The Australian on Thursday.

The paper quotes an unnamed “senior figure in the global energy industry” who is “convinced” that Anadarko Petroleum Corp is on BHP’s radar.

The company, with a market capitalisation of $25bn, is an appealing but tricky acquisition target. On the one hand it’s shares have seriously suffered since BP’s Macondo well explosion (Anadarko has a 25 per stake in the project) resulting in a more attractive valuation. But, also due to the Macondo disaster,  it is now facing an estimated fine of up to $2bn.

The Australian also reports that Mr Kloppers, in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, “explored, but then abandoned” a joint $35bn take-over bid for Woodside Petroleum, an oil and gas explorer operating in Australia’s North West Shelf project. The process was thought to have been abandoned in February last year, partly because it became too difficult politically after BHP’s aborted merger with Rio Tinto. The report adds:

According to a source close to the process, Shell had “stuffed up” in 2001 when a bid for control of Woodside was rejected because it had “tried to run the process by remote control from The Hague”.

If BHP succeeds in buying PotashCorp, Mr Kloppers may well want to bolster BHP’s oil and gas activities and continue a strategy of growth through acquisition. After all, he is nothing if not ambitious.

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