31 Aug 2015

Silver Fern Farms won't rule out foreign investment

3:25 pm on 31 August 2015

The country's largest meat co-operative, Silver Fern Farms, is not ruling out foreign investment as part of its capital raising process.

meat processing (stock photo)

Photo: 123RF

Silver Fern Farms is seeking about $100 million in new funding to help reduce debt and has appointed the stockbroking firm Goldman Sachs to help with that process.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he had been made aware Chinese investors want at least a $100 million stake in the company.

"Our information is that there is considerable progress in terms of their interest, down that pathway already. It all points to that, as Silver Fern Farms has been paying down its debt, and the overseas banks to which they're indebted want their money now and they want it from whoever can pay it. They don't care who buys the enterprise and so that's what we fear."

Radio New Zealand asked Silver Fern Farms if it would rule out foreign investment, but it responded by saying the company was still in a capital raising process and will inform shareholders when it has further information on progress. It is making no further comment.

Silver Fern Farm shareholders group spokesman Allan Richardson, who is based in west Otago, said he was disappointed to hear foreign ownership could be a possibility, because it was not what farmers wanted.

"We've always known that there would be foreign interest in the assets of Silver Ferns, as well as New Zealand capital in the mix too.

"We're unaware of who those companies exactly are, but we were certainly very disappointed to hear through the media that any foreign company would be close to investing in Silver Fern Farms.

"As to the nationality, it doesn't really matter to us, foreign control and ownership is not what we want for our industry."

Silver Fern Farms shareholders have gathered enough support to call for a special general meeting for more information around merging with another big co-operative, the Alliance Group.

Mr Richardson said that was planned for late September, but he was calling for it to happen sooner.

"We would like the special general meeting brought forward, and also the Alliance SGM as well, just so that farmers get the opportunity to hear all the facts and figures and are able to make decisions themselves."

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