23 Nov 2012

Demand high for Fonterra Shareholders Fund units

7:05 pm on 23 November 2012

Fonterra has been inundated with applications from farmers, staff and retired farmers to buy units in its new Shareholders Fund, but limited interest from farmers wanting to sell.

The fund will provide the first opportunity for outsiders to invest in profits of New Zealand's biggest company by buying future dividends (units) from farmers' shares in the co-operative.

Fonterra says more than 2500 staff, retired farmers, sharemilkers and current farmers, including some who supply its Australian subsidiaries, have applied to buy units.

However, about 260 Fonterra farmer shareholders out of a total of more than 10,000 have said they will sell units to these and other investors.

They have offered to sell about 5.5 million shares, which equates to between $25.3 million and $30.2 million, based on the cooperative's indicative price range for the units.

That figure is short of the $500 million minimum fund size Fonterra needs as part of new regulation and the cooperative is expected to issue new units to make up the remaining amount.

Fonterra says the issuing of shares would, at the most, affect its earnings per share by about 1 cent.

The Shareholders Fund is part of the Trading Among Farmers (TAF) proposals voted on by Fonterra shareholders earlier this year.

The units are due to start trading on the Stock Exchange in December this year.

A listing price will be decided once demand from financial institutions such as stockbrokers has been determined.