Dairy giant Fonterra has defended the slump in its share price brought on by its capital restructure plans.
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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The co-operative’s share price tanked since it began consulting on its plan in early May, falling 30 percent to $3.15 from $4.56 per share.

About $2.2 billion had been wiped off the company’s market capitalisation dragging it down to about $5b.

The co-op board was looking to cut the number of shares farmers needed to join the co-operative and either cap or scrap an associated shareholder’s fund, which is open to non-farmer investors.

Fonterra placed a temporary cap on the fund when it announced its plans, which saw the share price drop in both the fund and the co-operative.

Federated Farmers dairy industry chair and Fonterra shareholder Wayne Langford said farmers were concerned about the future value of the shares and the stability of the business, especially older farmers who were looking to sell out of the co-op.

“If you’ve got a farm that you have sold or you are selling at the moment and you’re looking to get out and the share price has dropped back a dollar from where it was, the average farmer, that’s a $100,000 or more.”

Wayne Langford said it was vital farmers raised their concerns during the consultation process.

‘We’re feeling the pain’ – Fonterra

Fonterra chair Peter McBride said in an email to shareholders the temporary cap on the fund was necessary while the options were open for feedback.

“We can see the current reduction in share price on our balance sheets, which is tough,” he said, adding the decision was affecting farmers in different ways.

“Some have sold shares for reasons relating to their own particular circumstances, which would be even tougher.”

However, McBride said Fonterra warned farmers there would be lower levels of trading and increased volatility in the share price throughout the consultation process.

“If we’re looking at today’s share price, then we’re feeling the pain of that.

“Or if we look out to the next 10 or 20 years, then it’s about maintaining control of our own co-op and supporting a sustainable milk supply, which helps protect overall return,” he said.

Fonterra remained in a strong financial position and its underlying performance was consistent with what it disclosed to the marker last month, he said.

Capital structure feedback

Fonterra was nearly two months into consultation and was expected to provide shareholders with a detailed summary of feedback next month.

In addition to the share price, the consultation focused on rules covering who could own shares, as well as the timeline for the change to capital structure.

“We’ve heard suggestions to adjust the minimum and maximum shareholdings within a reduced share structure, which we initially suggested could be 1:4,” McBride said.

“We are reconsidering what settings strike the right balance between flexibility and alignment of interests between shareholders.”

Anik Dairy, owned by dairy major Lactalis Group, has named SubhashisBasu as its new chief executive officer.

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