Ripples were sent through the agriculture community in Weyburn and area after the Weyburn Inland Terminal made two big announcements. Two board members resigned from the board of directors, citing a fundamental disagreement with the corporation’s new strategic plan and WIT will be considering expressions of interest to buy part or all of the company.
Farmer, shareholder and former board member, John Van Staveren, said he is surprised at the decision, but also not at the same time. Van Staveren served on the board for ten years, beginning in the mid-90s.
“I’m not surprised because nothing in agriculture is constant other than change,” he said, but added he was still a little surprised. “The company seemed to be rolling along fine.”
The board cited shareholder concerns about liquidity as a primary concern for the new strategic direction, though it has been discussed for many years. The nine month, after-tax earnings for WIT as of September were $1.16 million, or 22 cents per common share, up one cent per share from 2012, when profits were $1.14 million. Assets were up by $70,901 in 2012 to $106,541 in 2013.
The president’s report by board president Claude Carles states, “a total of 69,948 common shares traded at $13.15 per common share, compared to 26,994 shares in the range of $13.25 to $13.32 in the last year’s first nine months”. A 10-cent per common share dividend was paid in 2013, totalling $1.4 million, as compared to a $273,000 payout in 2012.
“WIT is a good company to acquire if somebody is looking at it,” said Van Staveren, and emphasized WIT’s solid customer base. “If somebody comes in offering to buy shares, that might be what the shareholders want.”
Van Staveren said liquidity has been a recurring concern for shareholders and the board and that the only the board has all the facts concerning the expressions of interest and potential sale at this time.
“It’s not being sold yet,” said Van Staveren. “I think the board of directors is doing their job.”
“The company is 40 years old. Things are a lot different now than they used to be. It’s a totally different environment now without the Canadian Wheat Board and it’s going to probably be more competitive,” said Van Staveren when asked about concerns that the company founded on farmer-owned and operated principals won’t maintain that principal. He explained smaller agriculture companies, such as WIT, might have a hard time surviving in an open market.
WIT’s statement said they would only sell the company if the move maximized the value and liquidity of the corporation for shareholders and maintained good service for customers. Any board approved transaction would be presented to shareholders for their ultimate approval.