The extension of the deadline for a deal between Silver Fern Farms and Shanghai Maling could be a sign the Chinese company has lost interest, shareholders who oppose the deal say.
The major meat processing company announced that it's seeking a time extension for official approval of the $260 million joint venture deal that was due to expire this Thursday.
The deal needs approval from the Overseas Investment Office and a final decision by government ministers Paula Bennett and Louise Upston.
A group of about 80 shareholders against the deal demanded a special resolution vote, which was to be held in early July, but Silver Fern Farms has now deferred the meeting.
Silver Fern Farms said both parties remained committed to the transaction.
However spokesperson for the group John Shrimpton, who is the largest single shareholder, said the deferral was promising.
"I actually think it's quite encouraging for the group of us who are concerned shareholders of Silver Fern Farms who are conducting what we like to refer to as the campaign to leave the proposed deal with Shanghai Maling, or Shexit as we prefer to call it these days.
"It's encouraging to the extent that Shanghai Maling and SFF agreed last year that their documentation would expire if the proposed sale was not completed by the 30th of June. Here we are, the deadline less than a week away, so if both parties were keen to continue then they would have actually prepared for this contingency and comfortably agreed for an extension.
"It really does indicate that Shanghai Maling may well not be interested in playing ball any longer," said Mr Shrimpton.
Silver Fern Farms said the parties needed more time for ministers' approval and OIO requests.
The company said they were in the process of agreeing an extension to the 30 June 2016 date to meet the OIO approval condition.
"We continue to believe that we will achieve OIO approval, however we need to allow more time to provide the required information and then for the OIO and ministers to have sufficient time to review," said chief executive Dean Hamilton in a statement.
Mr Shrimpton said the shareholder group was not told about the board's decision to defer the deadline until it was publicly announced on Saturday.