Grain handler Scoular on hunt for more Canadian buys

Winnipeg | Reuters — U.S. crop handler The Scoular Co. is looking to acquire stakes in grain and oilseeds facilities in Western Canada, fresh off agreeing to its first major purchase in the crop-growing belt, the private company’s chief operating officer said Monday.

Scoular last week agreed to pay $94 million for the special crops division of Winnipeg-based Legumex Walker, including 14 plants in Canada, the U.S. and China.

The acquisition will allow Scoular to start selling lentils, peas and sunflowers to markets as far away as India and Turkey and within the U.S., said COO Bob Ludington, in a phone interview from Overland Park, Kansas.

The next step will be upgrading those plants, which process crops such as peas, lentils and sunflowers and whose competitors include AGT Food and Ingredients.

A step into Western Canada’s grains and oilseeds sector will follow, Ludington said. He expects Scoular to announce an acquisition or partnership within a year.

“There are existing players open to partnering with the right kind of company,” he said. Scoular’s role is helping manage back-office functions, as well as supply-chain and risk management issues, while letting partners deal with traditional customers.

Western Canada is the world’s biggest canola growing region and a major wheat producer.

Grain-handling is dominated in the region by Richardson International, Viterra and Cargill, but smaller players are more open to taking on partners, Ludington said.

Mining and trading company Glencore, which owns Viterra, is looking for partners for its agriculture assets, but Ludington said he did not see a good fit between the companies.

He declined comment on any interest in Legumex’s remaining asset, a Washington state canola plant.

Omaha-based Scoular, which has 72 U.S. grain-handling facilities, had $5.9 billion in sales last year. The company is owned by its employees and controlled by the Faith family through voting shares.

Scoular is also a frequent target to be acquired.

In May, the chief executive of Richardson said he was interested in Scoular, and Glencore has also been a rumored suitor.

Potential buyers have inquired about a takeover annually for the last 15 or so years – including this year, Ludington said.

“They call, and we say, ‘no.'”

Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent covering the agriculture and mining sectors from Winnipeg.

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