29 Mar 2013

Farmers get another chance to sell Fonterra share rights

1:02 am on 29 March 2013

Fonterra dairy co-operative is giving its farmer owners another chance to sell the economic rights to some of their shares.

It will allow them to deposit up to a quarter of the shares they hold to match their milk supply, known as wet shares, in the Shareholders Fund launched late last year as part of Trading Among Farmers, or TAF.

Farmers who park shares in the fund get the cash value but give up the dividend rights, which are sold to outside investors who buy units in the fund.

When it opened last year the fund attracted relatively low interest from farmers and Fonterra itself had to provide the the bulk of the $525 million funding to start it.

The company will open the offer to farmers in May, but it won't increase the size of the fund as it will use the deposits from farmers to reduce its investment.

The chairman of the Shareholders Council representing the farmer owners, Ian Brown, says it will provide farmers with more flexibility to deal with the financial pressures they are facing from the drought and rising costs.

Mr Brown is expecting to see more interest from farmers this time in the Shareholders Fund, as well as the other part of TAF, the market that allows them to trade shares with each other.

Units in the Shareholders Fund were trading at $7 at lunchtime on Thursday.

Fonterra is forecasting a dividend of 32 cents a share, the same as last year when the share value was $4.50. It has announced a interim dividend of 16 cents.