Buhler Industries seeking a long-term investment partner

The company that builds Versatile tractors and Farm King equipment says it’s working with a Toronto-based investment bank to find a new long-term investment partner.

Without sharing many details on why, a press release issued by Buhler Industries says it has engaged Origin Merchant Partners to find an investor who is “driven by a commitment to preserving the legacy of the iconic Versatile and Farm King brands.”

After consolidating operations and divesting manufacturing assets in Alberta and North Dakota over the past several years, the company says it has “solidified its financial foundation by securing sufficient capital for current operational needs.”

Buhler has also been building higher horsepower tractors for Kubota since announcing a partnership with the Japanese brand in 2019.

The company has been majority-owned by Russian farm equipment-maker Rostselmash since 2007, when John Buhler sold approximately 80 per cent of his Manitoba-based company for $145 million. Rostselmash increased its ownership to 96.7 per cent in December 2021, buying out the company namesake’s remaining 16.3 per cent stake for $12.3 million.

The remaining shares in Buhler are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The company’s majority ownership has been the subject of public scrutiny in Canada following the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Although he remains the president of parent company Rostselmash, Konstantin Babkin was dropped from Buhler’s board of directors in March 2022 after making comments in support of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Fellow Rostselmash owners Dmitry Udras and Yuri Ryazanov have remained on Buhler’s board, with Ryazanov serving as company CEO.

Babkin is also the leader and co-founder of a political party in Russia known as the Action Party or Party of Business, while Udras and Ryazanov were previously listed as members of the party’s federal council.

While there have been calls for sanctions, the Canadian government has not imposed any specific restrictions on Rostselmash or its owners related to the war in Ukraine. While intellectual property has been shared, Buhler says it has never paid dividends to the majority owner since it was purchased by Rostselmash.

Buhler employs approximately 800 people in Manitoba, with Versatile manufacturing facilities in Winnipeg and Farm King operations in Morden. The company says it has built over 100 thousand tractors at its plant in Winnipeg since opening more than 50 hears ago.

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