1 Jul 2010

Fonterra aims to have share trading market next year

5:16 pm on 1 July 2010

Dairy giant Fonterra is hoping to have a new share trading market up and running by the end of next year after getting overwhelming support from its farmer-shareholders.

Almost 90% of those who voted have backed the move to allow the farmers to trade shares with each other, meaning money will be freed up to invest in Fonterra's business.

Fonterra will now need to build a market that allows farmers to buy and sell the shares.

This will not be a simple task, as the co-operative must set up rules under which the market will operate, the trading model that processes buy and sell orders, and the clearing system to settle the trades.

The technology to run the market, and how and who will operate it also needs to be carefully worked out.

The market is likely to also need liquidity providers to ensure it doesn't become imbalanced when there are sellers but no buyers or vice versa. Such providers are commonly used on Nordic exchanges and Fonterra representatives have been there to see how it works in practice.

The trading market, to be known as the Fonterra Shareholders Market, is expected to be running by the end of next year.

Share rights to be available to public

Outside investors may also get a chance to provide extra liquidity to the market, though the details also need to be worked out.

Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier says units would be available that give outside investors an indirect interest in the business, without farmers ceding ownership control.

Mr Ferrier told Checkpoint farmers will be able to sell the economic rights to the dividends and capital movement of the shares to the Fonterra Shareholders Fund, a separate unit trust.

The fund can then issue units which will have the same financial performance as a Fonterra share but will carry no voting rights.

Mr Ferrier expects strong interest given Fonterra's international presence and rising demand for dairy products from Asia.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister David Carter expects it will take nearly a year to make changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act required to accommodate the alterations to the co-operative's capital structure.