Farmers will have ownership in a privatized CWB

Western Canadian farmers will have an ownership stake in CWB after it is privatized, regardless of which company is selected as the company’s preferred privatization partner.

CWB chief strategy officer Dayna Spiring said company executives are exploring all opportunities aimed at developing a strong grain company.

The owners of that company will include farmers who have acquired CWB equity through its $5 per tonne equity offer.

Spiring made the comments last week, just days before Farmers of North America announced that its bid to acquire an ownership stake in CWB had failed.

“We want farmers to have equity in the CWB,” Spiring said.

“Regardless of who our ultimate investor is, farmers are going to play a role in this organization.”

CWB executives are talking with a number of companies interested in partnering with the CWB, Spiring said.

Efforts aimed at identifying a corporate partner began in 2012, shortly after CWB learned it would be required to submit a privatization plan to the federal government.

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By law, CWB officials must identify a corporate partner, submit a privatization plan to Ottawa and, pending government approval, execute their plan before Aug. 1, 2017.

Spiring denied suggestions that CWB has fast-tracked the privatization process.

“There’s a lot of talk right now about how this process has been fast-tracked … and I know there are … certain parties out there that feel they don’t have enough time (to put a proposal together),” she said.

“I have trouble with that. There’s nothing new in this process. We knew with this legislation in August 2012 that we had to privatize … and we’ve also said for a number of years now that we intend to do that far in advance of those (legislated) timelines. Nothing has changed in that.”

FNA officials spoke with CWB about the privatization process in early 2013 and FNA officials then expressed their views that farmers should be given an opportunity to gain controlling interest in the privatized company, she said.

“I’m surprised that they now think there’s a new timetable and that they’re out of time.”

FNA issued a news release on Oct. 27 announcing that their bid to acquire CWB had been rejected by CWB management.

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FNA president Jim Mann said his company still believes that farmers will build their own farmer-owned grain and fertilizer company.

CWB did not immediately respond to the FNA announcement but Spiring said last week that FNA had as much time as anyone to put a proposal together.

Spiring also said rumours suggesting that CWB is “selling off ” its assets to the highest bidder are false.

She said the company is looking for a corporate partner that has complementary assets, relevant expertise and a pool of investment capital that will allow CWB to expand the company and contribute to a more competitive grain handling environment.

“Particularly, we’re looking at companies or investors that have some experience in grain handling because that has not historically been one of the skills of the CWB. We’re a great marketer. We know Canadian grain probably better than anyone else on the planet, but we don’t have the same experience operating grain handling facilities as a lot of our competitors do.”

Financial capability will also be key, she said.

The preferred partner must have the financial wherewithal to invest in CWB and build a competitive network of grain handling facilities.

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“I think there’s a lot of concern and a lot of hangups — unnecessarily — around whether the investors are Canadian, or American, or multinationals or whatever they are,” she said.