This week we saw two sizable takeover offers in the natural resources and materials sectors. With share prices pummeled, you had to expect opportunistic suitors to swoop in sooner or later.
Last Friday, a nitrogen bomb hit Wall Street: CF Industries (NYSE: CF ) offered over $2 billion for fellow fertilizer-maker Terra Industries (NYSE: TRA ) . I said the challenge would be to convince Terra shareholders, and that's looking like an increasingly unlikely proposition. Terra's board took but a few days to deliver an unfavorable opinion of the offer.
The letter delivered to CF was short and to the point -- in effect: "thanks, but no thanks." Given Terra's net cash position, they're hardly a motivated seller, so CF is going to have to cough up quite a bit more cash if they want to convince this competitor to come aboard.
Meanwhile, up in Canada's Athabasca basin, Total SA (NYSE: TOT ) is once again proving itself committed to the long-term promise of oil sands. When all the area's projects, from Suncor's (NYSE: SU ) Voyageur to StatoilHydro's (NYSE: STO ) upgrader, started sinking, the French energy major remained firm. It was even rumored to be eyeing Nexen, another oil sands player.
That suspicion wasn't too far off the mark -- Total has instead made a bid for UTS Energy. Remember when Petro-Canada's (NYSE: PCZ ) Fort Hills project budget ranneth over back in September? This is the project that Total wants a piece of. With deep-pocketed Total on board, my fear of Fort Hills becoming a footnote would be much allayed.
I think Total has a better shot at its prey than does CF Industries. The other Fort Hills partners -- particularly Teck Cominco (NYSE: TCK ) -- are in no position to enter a bidding war. UTS Energy itself doesn't have much of a case for remaining independent, as it doesn't have the kind of scale necessary to push forward the multiple projects in its portfolio. We'll just have to see if a third party cuts in and makes things interesting for Total.