BUSINESS

Viterra shareholders vote 99.8% in favour of Glencore's $6.1B takeover offer

05/29/2012 02:16 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT
CALGARY - Viterra shareholders have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a $6.1-billion takeover of the Canadian agribusiness by a European commodities giant, the company announced Tuesday.

It said 99.8 per cent of votes cast by Viterra shareholders were in favour of accepting $16.25 per share in cash from Glencore PLC, a Swiss commodities giant.

The federal Competition Bureau has already indicated it doesn't plan to intervene and the vote is one of the final steps before the deal is completed. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is expected to rule after a hearing on Thursday.

"We welcome the response of Viterra's shareholders to the deal," said Chris Mahoney, Glencore's director of agricultural products, in a statement from Baar, Switzerland.

"We look forward to becoming part of the agriculture industry in Western Canada and to contributing to the expansion of the grains and oilseeds sector in those communities now served by Viterra, in Canada, Australia and elsewhere."

The Glencore deal included a side agreement that will see a large chunk of Viterra's business sold to two other Canadian companies.

Viterra (TSX:VT) was formed several years ago after Saskatchewan Wheat Pool bought Agricore United. The company has since expanded beyond Canada.

Glencore approached Viterra in March as it was preparing to benefit from the end of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on the marketing of wheat and barley in Western Canada.

However, a significant chunk of Viterra's business will be sold to two other Canadian companies.

Calgary-based Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) will pay $1.8 billion for the majority of Viterra's retail business.

Richardson International of Winnipeg will also acquire a 23 per cent share of Viterra's grain handling assets in Canada, plus other North American assets.

Glencore has also agreed to keep Viterra's North American head office in Regina.

A report by Informa Economics, commissioned by the Saskatchewan government, said the transaction is likely to improve Saskatchewan farmers' ability to export their crops worldwide and cement the province's reputation as being open for business.

But its says the deal raises some concerns about competition for crop nutrients such as nitrogen.

The effect on employment in the province is expected to be mixed and the impact on provincial coffers is expected to be modest.

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said he expected shareholders would approve the deal but added he was "shocked" by the 99.8 per cent.

"It's pretty one-sided and I guess it shows that it's a good deal for shareholders at least," he said.

The province gave the Informa report to the federal government earlier this month. It's up to Ottawa to make the decision as to whether or not the transaction represents a net benefit to Canada.

"We're optimistic that it'll be good in the long run," Stewart added.

"It'll certainly be good if the feds ensure that Glencore establishes Regina as its North American headquarters and maintains at least, or maybe enhances employment in the field and increases capital by $100 million, like we're asking, over five years in western Canada."

Viterra shares closed Tuesday at $16, down three cents, on the Toronto Stock Exchange.