7 Sep 2009

Fonterra backs down on offering shares to public

11:49 am on 7 September 2009

Fonterra has backed away from plans to list the company on the stock exchange in an attempt to broaden its capital base.

Listing will not be part of the consultation about a review of the company's capital structure, which is due to begin on 18 September.

Chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden says many dairy-farmer shareholders have made it clear they want to retain total control and ownership of the co-operative.

Under Fonterra's constitution, at least 75% of voting support is required for any change to capital structure.

Sir Henry says taking the listing idea off the table is a pragmatic move when there is no prospect of securing the necessary 75%. Now shareholders can debate the review without needless distraction, he says.

An earlier round of consultation was held in 2007 and 2008, but the proposed format was withdrawn before a vote was held.

Federated Farmers response

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie says the remaining options open to Fonterra would include holding on to more of the profits and allowing farmers to buy shares that are not linked to production.

He says there are many examples of successful co-ops and private companies which don't list on the stock exchange to get extra capital, and those companies generally have good profit margins which are retained to grow the business.

Mr McKenzie says the milk payment should be fully paid out, but some of the profit from other investments should be kept for depreciation and growth.

He says there are also examples of co-operatives, including the dairy industry's Livestock Improvement Corporation, that offer farmers investment shares to raise extra capital.