Farmer-owned Sask. terminal’s potential sale questioned

Some shareholders and customers of southeastern Saskatchewan’s Weyburn Inland Terminal have joined together to question the potential sale of the farmer-owned facility to outside buyers.

WIT on Dec. 13 announced it’s pursuing “expressions of interest” regarding the potential sale of all or part of the Weyburn, Sask. company.

“We’re worried about local competition, if the terminal is sold to another grain company,” said Weyburn farmer Mark Bratrud, one in the group pursuing the shareholder initiative. “We’re concerned about not having the opportunity to have a farmer-owned business enterprise in the area in the future.”

One of the reasons WIT has cited for exploring a potential sale is to increase shareholder liquidity. WIT shares trade in the over-the-counter (OTC) market, and are not listed on a stock exchange.

“We understand that investors want liquidity,” said Bratrud, “but have we explored every option? To us, selling it to somebody else is a last ditch solution.”

A similar discussion took place in 1998, when WIT shareholders voted down an outside bid from United Grain Growers (now part of Viterra) to purchase the company. “It’s a generational thing,” he said.

Bratrud and other concerned shareholders have set up a website where they plant to raise shareholder awareness about the issue and develop new solutions to increase share liquidity. “It is becoming clear to us that this is moving quickly,” he said.

Bratrud hopes the group can gather enough shareholder support to convince WIT’s board of directors to call a shareholders’ meeting and hold an open conversation about the potential sale.

“We want to open up the discussion,” he said. “We want this company around for a long time. We want it to continue to grow.”

To date, WIT president Claude Carles says the company’s board of directors has no plans to call a shareholders’ meeting.

Carles indicated he’s aware of the group’s initiative, but had no comments.

Shareholders controlling a combined total five per cent of WIT’s outstanding shares can force the company’s board to hold a shareholders’ meeting.

— Leeann Minogue is editor of Grainews at Griffin, Sask.

Related story:
Two Weyburn Terminal directors quit as sale eyed, Dec. 17, 2013

CLARIFICATION, Jan. 14, 2014: An earlier version of this article described Mark Bratrud as “spearheading” the shareholder initiative.

 

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