Saskpool breaks with past, becomes Viterra

BALGONIE, Saskatchewan Thu Aug 30, 2007 6:33pm BST

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BALGONIE, Saskatchewan Aug 30 (Reuters) - Saskatchewan Wheat Pool SWP.TO will now be known as Viterra, a name it believes better reflects the breadth of its business, Canada's largest grain handler said on Thursday.

Saskpool revealed its new name and logo at its modern Buffalo Plains concrete terminal east of the provincial capital of Regina to a crowd of grain trade and Prairie political leaders.

The name change invoked nostalgia in the province, where "The Pool" had dominated since the 1920s, when it was started as a co-operative by farmers who wanted to get better prices for their wheat, and to share in patronage dividends.

But Saskpool went public more than a decade ago, and it shed its farmer-controlled governance after a financial overhaul forced by a close call with insolvency.

Now New York fund Third Avenue Management LLC is Saskpool's largest shareholder, with a 16 percent stake.

Earlier this year, Saskpool swallowed its larger competitor, Agricore United, after a C$1.8 billion ($1.7 billion) takeover battle, and the new name -- which some wags said sounded like the impotence drug Viagra -- is part of that transformation. Agricore itself was a merger of three former farmer-owned grain handlers.

Saskpool has a stock market value of C$2.149 billion and controls more than 40 percent of Canada's grain market.

Saskpool shares were up 8 Canadian cents at C$10.75 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Aside from its Prairie-wide grain network and export terminal space, Saskpool also owns crop supply retail centers, livestock and feed operations, an oat miller and other ventures.

($1=$1.06 Canadian)

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