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Viterra deal progresses

The Saskatchewan government wants to know how a proposed takeover of grain handler Viterra by a Swiss company will affect the province.

The government announced last week that it is reviewing the $6.1-billion deal that would see Viterra acquired by Glencore International.

Much of the business would remain in Canadian hands because Calgary-based Agrium Inc. and privately held Richardson International, based in Winnipeg, would buy the majority of Viterra's Canadian assets for a combined $2.6 billion in cash.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Informa Economics Inc. will report on the implications of the deal for Saskatchewan.

"We'd like this independent group to explore some questions, including what's the impact... on Saskatchewan farmers? What's the impact in terms of the concentration on the competitive side on farm inputs? What's the impact economically to the province, if any?" Wall says.

The report will also look at grain industry employment in Saskatchewan, competition within the western Canadian grain-handling system and Saskatchewan's strategic position in the international grain industry.

"On the grain-handling side, there appears to be actually a more diffuse market if this takeover happens because of the market concentration the former Viterra had and what's going to be happening with Richardson's or Pioneer elevators, so that part seems to be addressed, but again we're going to do the work," Wall says.

"It's less clear on the input side, certainly with respect to not just fertilizers but the retail presence in rural Saskatchewan and across Western Canada."

The federal Competition Bureau will do its own review, but it's unclear how long that will take.

The province is to get the report from Informa Economics by May 7 and make it public a few days later. However, the government is likely to take some time before it releases its position, Wall said, as it waits for the competition review.

April 10, 2012  By by the Canadian Press


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