Fight to Keep Honey Firm in WA

Fight to Keep Honey Firm in WA

Article from The West Australian

A bitter row over the sale of honey packer Wescobee is threatening to divide the local beekeeping community.

A group of dissident shareholders is trying to oust board members to prevent the sale of Wescobee’s brand name, honey stocks and plant and equipment to Queensland-based Capilano.

The current Wescobee board has accepted a $5 million offer from Capilano subject to approval by shareholders in the 89-year-old WA company.

Things turned sticky when beekeeper Kim Fewster and five other shareholders requisitioned a general meeting seeking the removal of chairman David McIntyre and fellow directors Ronald Pollard, Deane Spurge and Stephen Davies.

The row will come to a head on March 22 when Wescobee’s 120 or so shareholders, almost all of them beekeepers or former beekeepers, vote on the board changes and the sale proposal.

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Mr Fewster, who wants a place on the board along with David Maxwell, said his intention was to keep Wescobee operating independently of Capilano.

“We don’t think the deal needs to be done,” he said.

Mr Fewster said that under the proposed sale Capilano would get stocks of honey worth up to $4 million at well below east coast prices.

He was also concerned about Wescobee, which would change its name to 91 Holdings Ltd, retaining ownership of its premises in Bayswater and leasing them to Capilano.

Mr Fewster, who owns and operates Fewster’s Honey Farm, stopped supplying Wescobee about two years ago.

Mr McIntyre defended the actions of the Wescobee board, saying it was acting in the best interests of shareholders.

“We believe what we are talking about is the optimum time for the shareholders to extract their value out of the company and it also protects the major suppliers,” he said.

A Wescobee general meeting scheduled for January 25 to vote on the sale was adjourned at the last minute after the requisition from the six shareholders.

ASX-listed Capilano issued a market update on February 15 which noted the adjournment but did not mention the requisition.

Capilano chief executive Ben McKee said he met WA beekeepers and some shareholders to explain the sale. He assured them that it would be business as usual for suppliers and that the brand name would survive.

“It is about creating a strong market for beekeepers in WA in a bigger, stronger business,” Mr McKee said.

Wescobee recorded revenue of $8.4 million for a net profit of $364,882 in the year to June 30. It had net assets of $8.5 million.