5 Nov 2012

Fonterra shareholders' fund opens to outsiders

6:29 am on 5 November 2012

Fonterra shareholders who are not farmers will get their first chance to invest in the co-operative's profits on Monday.

Fonterra's new shareholders' fund will be open to applications from outside investors.

They will be able to buy the rights to the dividend earnings from shares that farmers deposit in the fund. The farmers will get the cash value of the shares.

Brokers representing outside investors can apply for units in the fund.

Sharemilkers who supply Fonterra, as well as retired farmers and staff will also be able to apply for units, as Friends of Fonterra.

Sharemilkers and former suppliers will be able to invest up to $50,000 each and staff up to half that amount to buy units.

Some have questioned why they should be restricted in the amount they can invest.

But Ian Brown, the chairman of the Shareholders Council representing Fonterra's farmer owners, thinks having a cap is reasonable.

He says the cap is to ensure that all Fonterra staff and all those who are Friends of Fonterra have the opportunity to participate.

"If people want to go above that there is nothing stopping them going onto the open market through a broker and topping up their requirements if they so wish."

Australian dairy farmers supplying milk to Fonterra operations in that country, including Bonlac, will also be able to apply for up to $25 million worth of units in the shareholders fund.