Sask. sees no competition concern in Viterra takeover

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, whose views could be pivotal in determining Ottawa’s stance on Glencore International’s $6.1 billion takeover bid for grain handler Viterra, said on Tuesday the proposal seems to address concerns about maintaining grain market competition.

Viterra’s head office is in Regina, and the Prairie province is a major grain producer. Wall’s opposition to mining giant BHP Billiton’s $39 billion takeover of Saskatchewan-based PotashCorp in 2010 was a big factor in the federal government’s scuttling of the deal.

Under law, the federal government must review major takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign entities to ensure they are of "net benefit" to Canada. Saskatchewan plans to conduct its own analysis of the deal and then make a recommendation to Ottawa, as it did in the Potash case.

Canada’s Competition Bureau will also review the deal.

Wall told reporters in Regina that competition concerns appear to be addressed by the terms of the deal, under which Calgary’s Agrium and Winnipeg’s Richardson International will buy some of Viterra’s assets.

Wall also said he was encouraged by Glencore’s promise to put the head office of its North American agriculture business in Regina, but wants clarification of the pledge.

Although Viterra’s head office is in Regina, CEO Mayo Schmidt and some other executives currently work out of Calgary.

The government of Alberta said it’s taking what it called a balanced view on the acquisition until it has a clearer idea of its implications.

However, it said it welcomes the entry of a company with international heft in the grain market.

"There will be another global player that has… assets around the globe," said Dave Burdek, a spokesman for Alberta Agriculture in Edmonton. "That’s going to be potentially very positive."

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