Three other institutions – BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered Bankand PricewaterhouseCoopers– bid for the six-month contract, which will involve negotiating the sale of the JD 83 million ($117 million) stake to foreign companies. Kali & Salz Groupof Germany, Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan and Potash Corporationof Canada are all understood to have expressed an interest in acquiring the share.

Listed on the Amman Stock Exchange, APC is the kingdom’s second largest firm in terms of market capitalisation. Net profits at APC fell by 4 per cent last year to JD 28.2 million ($40 million), while total assets rose to JD 415 million ($585 million) compared with JD 390 million ($550 million) in 2000. Under a long-term concession agreement, APC has exclusive rights to exploit potash and other minerals on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea until 2058.