The sun has set on an era of Weyburn’s history, as the history-making, precedent-setting independently owned and operated Weyburn Inland Terminal has now been sold off to a private grain company, Parrish & Heimbecker, subject to court approval.
The board of directors of WIT had recommended that shareholders take the offer of $17.25 a share from P&H, or a total of $94.6 million for all outstanding shares of the Terminal.
A total of 1,017 shareholders voting 4.84 million shares (out of 5.4 million) voted just under 80 per cent in favour of selling the Terminal.
This ends the era that was begun by “a bunch of farmers” who wanted to share ownership in their own grain terminal, by building a concrete elevator which at that time had never been done in Canada before on the prairies; many farmers, and the government of the day, told them they couldn’t do it and that it would fail.
They not only succeeded, but for the last several years were making a good profit for the roughly 1,500 shareholders of the company. Apparently being profitable and successful wasn’t enough for the board, who insisted that being a single-point shipper of grain was somehow not going to succeed in the coming years, even though there was no basis for this claim, other than problems with the railway system, which CEO Rob Davies admitted is an industry-wide problem, not a WIT problem.
Now, with a private grain company coming in to own and operate the Terminal, it remains to be seen how or if they will be able to maintain a loyal customer base the way WIT has been able to.
While 80 per cent of the shares, represented in person and by proxy, voted in favour of the sale, it will be interesting to find out how many of the active producers who are shareholders in the company will now be customers of P&H. Roughly 40 per cent of the shareholders are active producers — but how many of those active producers were fighting to keep the Terminal alive and independent? How will they feel now about an elevator they cannot buy shares in, as P&H is a private company?
There were questions raised at the meeting which may well now be raised in Court of Queen’s Bench, where the vote results will be presented for court approval. The sun has set on WIT as a farmer-owned, farmer-operated company; will the sun now rise on Parrish & Heimbecker?