2 Nov 2012

Fonterra farmer trading scheme starts

2:12 pm on 2 November 2012

Fonterra's shareholders' fund opens on Friday for farmers who want to sell the dividend rights to some of their shares.

The fund, part of the co-operative's Trading Among Farmers plan, will provide the first opportunity for outsiders to invest in the profits of New Zealand's biggest company.

Farmers who deposit shares in the fund will get the cash value of the shares in return for giving up the dividends.

The scheme is expected to attract interest from farmers looking to free up cash.

But a farmer critic of the shareholders' fund, Lachlan McKenzie, is advising farmers to seek outside financial advice first, because he says there are fish-hooks as well as benefits.

He is critical of the limits on the amount that Fonterra staff, sharemilkers and retired farmers, designated as Friends of Fonterra, will be able to invest in the fund.

Sharemilkers and former suppliers will be able to invest up to $50,000 and staff up to half that amount to buy units giving them access to dividends.

Mr McKenzie regards having a cap on the investment as an insult. He says foreign investors have been given a higher investment priority than people working in the dairy industry.

He says it would have been better to leave it completely open, to allow as many current workers in the dairy industry as possible to invest in that industry.

Shareholders Council chair Ian Brown says he's seeing a lot of interest in the fund by farmers, and some current farmer shareholders are looking to tap into it as investors.

Friends of Fonterra and brokers representing outside investors will be able to apply for units in the fund from Monday.