Wesfarmers chief urges CBH to gives growers options

Rueben Hale and Brad ThompsonCountryman

Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder says CBH needs to give its members “more options” about how the structure of the co-operative will look in the future.

Mr Goyder, who runs a company that made a spectacular transition from WA co-op to a listed company, said that as one of the 4145 grain growers controlling CBH, he wanted the opportunity to look at all options in regard to the operating structure.

He made the comments during questions, after making a speech to young farmers and young city dwellers at Perth’s Hilton hotel last Thursday, as part of an event organised jointly by AgConnectWA and Perth Youth Advisory Council

Mr Goyder, who says he is predominantly a free market person, told the packed room that producer protectionist business structures had shown historically to end in disaster for the farmers they’re designed to protect.

Mr Goyder oversaw one of the largest co-operative to corporation transformations in Australian business history as head of Wesfarmers, making his remarks echo loudly in the chamber of continuing debate amongst CBH’s grain growers over the organisations structure in the future.

Last month the CBH board unanimously rejected a proposal to commercialise the company and list on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Investment bank Gresham Partners, half-owned by Wesfarmers, is acting as a corporate adviser to AGC in a corporatisation bid financed by GrainCorp and First State Super.

AGC has promised growers up to $1 billion in cash as well as shares in a listed entity controlling grain storage, handling and export infrastructure.

“I have spoken to a number of farmers who are looking at this and saying ‘I’ve got significant equity tied up in this enterprise and I would like some access to that equity’. That is legitimate,” Mr Goyder said.

“There are others who will say I don’t want corporate getting their hands on this thing and putting up prices and whatever. I suspect this won’t be the last time this happens, even if this one goes away.”

Mr Goyder said CBH would need to be efficient and competitive in the future.

He said he would be surprised if more alternative structure proposals were not put to the board in the future.

“Whether that’s done through an ongoing co-operative structure, or whether its done through a listed vehicle, like Wesfarmers has, I think is open to debate,” he said.

CBH said it would now conduct more than 20 meetings with growers in the Wheatbelt over the next six weeks to discuss what structure they wanted for the company in the future.

Mr Goyder, who is from a farming family, grows grain and runs sheep for meat production on a farm near Toodyay.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails