Farmers seek to stave off Weyburn Terminal takeover

Eleven southeastern Saskatchewan farmers hope to fend off a planned takeover of a farmer-owned grain terminal by drafting their own ticket for the terminal’s board.

More than 200 Weyburn Inland Terminal shareholders gathered Tuesday at McKenna Hall in Weyburn to discuss the proposed takeover of the grain terminal by privately-held grain handler Parrish and Heimbecker. [Related story]

The proposed takeover will be the topic of a special general meeting of WIT shareholders on Feb. 28. Two-thirds approval by shareholders, as well as court and regulatory approval, is required before the takeover can be finalized.

Winnipeg-based P+H proposes to pay $17.25 per share, about 33.3 per cent over the OTC-traded shares’ value before the proposal was announced.

The farmers who organized Tuesday’s meeting in Weyburn oppose the sale, and include 11 local men who will let their names stand as director nominees.

One of the members of this slate of candidates, Griffin farmer Brent Kosior, spoke to one of these farmers’ concerns, saying that if WIT is sold, “what is going to happen to our voice?”

One of the primary reasons cited by the current board of directors for selling WIT is the lack of liquidity for shareholders. Kosior denied that’s a major concern. “Two years ago,” he said, “it was hard to purchase a WIT share.”

The current system of trading shares, he said, “is not a functional system.”

While the slate of potential directors told shareholders they are developing options to improve liquidity, they did not share details, citing legal concerns.

Information about a proposed sale of WIT first came to light in December with the resignation of two members of WIT’s board: Allan Richards of Regina and Dale Mainil of Weyburn, now both part of the group of 11 potential directors.

“We quit the board,” Richards said at Tuesday’s meeting, “but we didn’t quit the company.”

Apart from shareholders, several condo owners attended the meeting. Condo owners have significant investments in grain storage space in the WIT facility — and as owner of the terminal, P+H would control many of the charges and terms associated with the condo space.

“Condo owners built 40 per of the capacity” of the terminal, Mainil said.

Len Ludwig, a farmer from Lampman, about 90 km southeast of Weyburn, spoke in favour of the P+H takeover, saying that a lot has changed over the past decade.

Competition is increasing, the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board has changed the marketing landscape and “I think now, while the Terminal’s making money, it’s time to sell,” he said.

Potential directors said they expect the fight for the future of WIT will be fierce.

“We will have to muster every share vote possible for retention of the company,” said Richards.

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

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