PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Canadian fertilizer company Potash said it has held discussions with a number of third parties about its future in a note to shareholders Monday, implying that BHP Billiton will have to up its hostile $38.5 billion takeover bid.
Potash rejected that offer last month and again called it "wholly inadequate."
President and CEO Bill Doyle said a sale is not imminent and that Potash can hold out indefinitely for the right offer.
"We expect that this process will be more like a marathon than a sprint," Doyle wrote. "We feel that given our position in the market, and the strengthening agriculture fundamentals, it is clearly in BHP's interest to try to make this process as short as possible. There is, of course, no precise timeline for a transaction, if one does occur, and other large Canadian resource transactions involving marquee assets have typically taken significant time to complete."
The head of a major Canadian pension fund said this month that a Chinese sovereign wealth fund is exploring a joint bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.
BHP Billiton Ltd. is the biggest miner in the world, but it may be forced to square off against Australian miner Rio Tinto and Chinese agribusiness SinoChem, which also have deep pockets in a time when buyouts can be had at a relative bargain.
Global producers believe continued growth, especially in developing countries, will make companies like Potash very valuable in coming years.
Potash is a key ingredient in fertilizer, and when the economy rebounds, demand for it is expected to soar.