MURRAY Goulburn shareholders have approved the sale of their co-operative’s operating assets and liabilities to Canadian dairy giant Saputo.
At an extraordinary general meeting of Murray Goulburn in Melbourne today, shareholders cast nearly 98 per cent of votes in favour of a resolution to sell the co-operative to Saputo for $1.31 billion.
The crowd of about 100, much smaller than the October MG annual general meeting numbers, also gave the green light to an initial distribution of 80 cents a share or unit within 10 business days of the completion of the asset sale.
The sale is expected to be finalised on May 1.
New owner Saputo said it was delighted by the outcome of the vote at today’s meeting.
“This step was a significant milestone for Saputo in the process of completing our acquisition of MG,” the company’s chief executive officer and chairman Lino Saputo said.
“We would like to sincerely thank MG shareholders for their support and confidence.
“We are committed to contributing to the sustainability of the Australian dairy industry and look forward to building strong relationships with our suppliers by treating them fairly, with respect and loyalty.”
The deal still has to be approved by the Foreign Investment and Review Board.
Yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave its clearance to the sale, subject to a court-enforceable undertaking Saputo would sell MG’s Koroit factory within a defined, but not publicly disclosed, period of time.
Saputo already owns Allansford-based Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.
MG chief executive Ari Mervis told about 100 shareholders and unit holders Saputo was a credible and trusted dairy processor in Australia, which gave the dairy co-operative confidence it would honour all their commitments to suppliers.
“Saputo recognises that in order to run efficient production facilities they need profitable dairy farms and a profitable industry, supported by strong milk prices,” Mr Mervis said.
Southwest Victorian MG director Craig Dwyer told the crowd he understood it was a “momentous day” for the 68-year-old co-operative.
“When seven dairy farmers from the Cobram area became the first subscribers to MG, each holding 100 shares on the 9th of January 1950, I am sure they never envisaged this day.”
Former chairman and Yarram dairy farmer Ian MacAulay said it was a “very sad day” but paid tribute to the MG staff.
MG has retained about $235 million from the sale, with $195 million set aside for any potential retained litigation costs.
Other money would be used for operational costs including winding-up costs of MG.
MG told suppliers the asset sale would deliver a total $1.15-$1.20 for each unit traded on the listed MG Unit Trust or share.
Chairman John Spark said 80 cents a unit or share would be distributed to investors who held scrip on April 16.
The distribution was expected to be made on May 15.
Mr Spark said restrictions on share trading would be lifted on May 1, allowing shareholders to sell some or all of their shares through the Bell direct shareholder trading platform for 60 days.
The trading platform would be closed on June 29, after which shareholders could only sell through transfers directly with other parties.
The MG Unit Trust will continue to operate on the Australian Securities Exchange until it is delisted, expected to be at this year’s annual general meeting of the co-operative.
By: SIMONE SMITH and PETER HEMPHILL
Source: The Weekly Times