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Will a White Knight Enter the Potash Fray?

(Potash-BHP poll updated with latest news on potential Potash suitor Sinochem.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Speculation on what white knight might emerge as a legitimate challenger to BHP Billiton (BHP) for the prize of Potash (POT - Get Report) has cooled since news of the hostile pursuit broke two weeks ago.

Chinese entities were early favorites, despite the less-than-illustrious history of companies from the People's Republic sealing deals of this enormous scale overseas. Sinochem, the sprawling industrial goliath, was a popular choice -- its Sinofert unit is the nation's largest fertilizer purveyor. In the latest, Sinochem apparently has hired investment-banker advisors at HSBC to help it consider a move, The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday. The paper and other media outlets had earlier reported that Chinese private-equity fund Hopu was considering assembling a consortium of investors to make a possible bid.

>>Potash vs. BHP: The Fertilizer War From A to Z

At first, too, it seemed as if Vale (VALE - Get Report) or Rio Tinto (RTP) might enter the fray by teaming with some other player -- perhaps one of the aforementioned China-based outfits. Reports indicated that parties associated with both companies made preliminary behind-the-scenes contact with Potash about just such a thing. And Potash itself loudly remarked in press releases and SEC filings that it was speaking with several interested groups.

Vale and Rio have since publicly denied interest. Still, such avowals sometimes mean little. To take but one example: During the yearlong, three-way takeover battle that pitted Terra Industries against CF Industries (CF) against Agrium (AGU), the Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara Industries made a hobby out of renouncing interest in Terra in the months and weeks leading up to the day that it went public with a bid for the company (which was temporarily accepted).

Perhaps sensing Potash's dimming hopes for a second suitor, BHP has stood fast with its $130-a-share proposal, saying it won't raise the offer anytime soon. Another possibility essayed by analysts: that Potash could strike a joint-venture deal with any of the above, thus thwarting BHP.

With all this in mind, we ask readers of The Street to hazard a guess: Which of the following players do you think is the most likely to emerge as a legitimate white-knight bidder for Potash?

Take our poll below to learn the consensus of TheStreet -- and if you think we've missed an obvious suitor, don't be afraid to "write in" another candidate by posting a comment below.

Which of the following players do you think is the most likely to emerge as a legitimate white-knight bidder for Potash?

Rio Tinto
A Potash joint venture with one of the above
There will be no white knight; BHP will still win the Potash prize.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Scott Eden.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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