$5M upgrade planned

November 6, 2007

Release Date: November 6, 2007
Bruce Johnstone, The Leader-Post

Weyburn Inland Terminal (WIT) will spend $5 million to upgrade its receiving capacity, dust control and storage facilities, the farmer-owned grainhandling company announced Monday.

“There are three components (to the project),” said WIT CEO Rob Davies.

“The first component is improving our receiving speed. That’s all about improving our customers’ experience and giving them faster service at those times of year when things get busy,” Davies said.

Davies said WIT wants to increase its receiving capacity by at least 50 per cent from 5,000 tonnes per day at present to 7,500 to 8,000 tonnes per day.

“Theoretically, we’ll doubling our capacity. Practically, we think we should be able to get up into the 8,000(-tonne-a-day) range,” Davies said.

The objective is to reduce customer waiting times during the two-month-long delivery season, he added.

WIT also wants to improve dust control in the terminal. “We’re trying to do ensure that we’re state-of-the-art in terms of the working environment.”

The third part of the project is increasing storage for ‘identity preserved’ crops. “If one customer wants a certain variety or a certain quality (of grains or oilseeds), that (identity preserved storage) allows us to keep it separate from everything else in the elevator. It just allows us to handle them more efficiently.”

Davies said the entire project will take about 10 months and should be complete by the end of next summer prior to harvest.

“We have to continue to operate through the project, so it will create some delays, both for the contractors and the customers. Hopefully, there will be minimal delays for the customers.”

At the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2007, WIT reported profitability in all its operating divisions.

WIT reported after-tax earnings of $4.09 million or $4.14 per share for the nine-month period ended Sept. 30, up from $2.74 million or $2.82 per share in the same period in fiscal 2006.

“All the different grains, oilseeds and specialty crops we handle — all of our businesses have done well,” Davies said. “We’re fortunate to be firing on all cylinders.”

Higher volumes of all grains were handled, including wheat, durum, malt barley, canola and flax. Strong operating performances from the crop inputs division, Pro-Pellet business and Vigro Seed & Supply also contributed to the improved results, he said.

Working capital as of Sept. 30 was $17.5 million, after common and preferred dividend payments of $2.54 million in 2007. The dividend represents a yield of 8.5 per cent based on September’s closing share price of $30.50.

Share prices have since increased, trading over the counter at Union Securities at $36 in October. “Lots of our customers are shareholders. We have a customer share purchase plan in place that makes it easy for our customers to purchase shares,” Davies said.

WIT, which was formed by a group of producer-investors in 1976, is located on the CP Rail Soo Line near Weyburn, about 110 kilometres southeast of Regina.

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007