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Wheat board to buy Saskatchewan grain terminal as part of privatization plan

WINNIPEG - The Canadian Wheat Board is purchasing a grain-handling company in western Saskatchewan as part of a privatization plan.

The federally owned grain marketer said Monday it has reached an agreement to buy all of the common shares of Great Sandhills Terminal Ltd. for $17.4 million pending approval by shareholders.

The deal includes a grain-handling facility near Leader, Sask., and a shortline railway in the region.

Dayna Spiring, the CWB's chief strategy officer, said the purchase strengthens the board's network, which includes other grain facilities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

"It is a very big piece of our puzzle and we are not done yet," Spiring said.

"To privatize and to be a successful grain company the CWB has always said that we need to have a network of assets across Western Canada."

The deal through a wholly owned subsidiary is to be financed through a combination of the corporation's retained earnings and commercial borrowing, she said.

Great Sandhill's board of directors has unanimously endorsed the sale and is recommending that shareholders approve the transaction at a meeting expected to be held in August.

Spiring suggested the Canadian Wheat Board now wants to add a facility in Alberta to its network.

Earlier this month the CWB announced it had wrapped up a $43.2 million deal to buy all of the shares of Prairie West Terminal Ltd. in Saskatchewan.

The corporation announced last November it would buy all shares of Mission Terminal, Les Elevateurs des Trois-Rivieres, and Services Maritimes Laviolette from Upper Lakes Group Inc.

Mission Terminals markets crops around the world and operates grain-handling facilities in Western Canada and Thunder Bay, Ont.

Les Elevateurs des Trois-Rivieres in Trois-Rivieres, Que., has loading and storage facilities than can handle 110,000 tonnes of grain per year.

The price of that deal was not disclosed.

Under federal law, the CWB is to be privatized no later than August 2017, but the corporation said it expects to beat that deadline.

It hopes to provide Ottawa with its privatization plan within a year, Spiring said.

The federal government passed a law in 2011 that stripped the Canadian Wheat Board of its monopoly on western wheat and barley sales.

Farmers can still market their grain through the board, but now it is a voluntary decision.

— By John Cotter in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

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