17 Dec 2012

Vote on reducing cap on new shareholders fund

6:28 am on 17 December 2012

Fonterra farmers are to decide whether to lower the limit on the size of its new shareholders' fund.

At the -operative's annual meeting at Mystery Creek, Hamilton, on Monday, they will vote on a resolution to reduce the cap on the size of the fund from 25 to 20% of the total shareholding.

The fund, part of Fonterra's Trading Among Farmers scheme, allows outsiders, as well as the company's own shareholders and empoyees, to invest in the dividend earnings from shares that farmers and the company deposit in the fund.

There has been strong trading in the fund's units since they went on the market at the end of November.

The fund has been opposed by some farmer shareholders who think it could undermine their ownership and control of the co-operative, even though outsiders can't own shares or hold voting rights.

Fonterra has proposed the constitutional change to reduce the size of the fund to provide reassurance to farmers that they will remain in control.

The resolution fell just short of the 75% support it needed when farmers voted on the TAF plan back in June.

So, Fonterra is holding a second vote at Monday's meeting.

Other vote for change

Shareholders are also being asked to vote on a second constitutional change which would reinforce the farmer majority on the co-operative's board. The resolution is from a group of farmers.

But the Shareholders' Council has urged farmers to reject it, because it says it would pre-empt a governance review that's already underway.

Fonterra farmers have also been voting in an election to fill three vacancies on the board and some seats on the Shareholders' Council.

Eleven candidates are standing for board positions. They include current director John Wilson, who is to take over from Sir Henry van der Heyden as Fonterra's chairman. Results will be announced at the annual meeting.