Tuesday, 26 March 2019 08:53

Hard calls to be made on Fonterra assets

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fonterra chairman John Monaghan flanked by chief executive Miles Hurrell (right) and CFO Marc Rivers. Fonterra chairman John Monaghan flanked by chief executive Miles Hurrell (right) and CFO Marc Rivers.

Fonterra farmers are emotional but realistic about losing some iconic business units — notably Tip Top, says Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman Duncan Coull.

“No denying there are some emotions out there although deep down there is realisation that hard calls need to be made,” Coull told Dairy News.

He says Fonterra needs to change fundamentally, not just around the edges.

The co-op last week confirmed it was talking to several potential buyers for its ice cream business Tip Top.

Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert started an online petition three months ago to block the sale of Tip Top; it has garnered over 15,000 signatures so far.

Herbert says Tip Top ice cream is an important link between fresh milk from Fonterra farmers and the city dwellers consuming the products. 

Chief executive Miles Hurrell says the co-op must sell some assets to reduce its debt by $800 million by the end of this financial year. Tip Top is one of three assets up for immediate sale; a final decision on its sale will be made before July 31.

 Fonterra has already bought back the 51% stake in its Darnum plant in Victoria that it had sold to the Chinese company Beingmate.

The co-op is mulling the sale of its 19% stake in Beingmate,  bought in 2014 for $750 million but since written down by $405m due to the company’s poor performance.

And the co-op last week said its portfolio review had also raised questions about DFE Pharma, a 50/50 joint venture set up in 2006 with the Dutch co-op FrieslandCampina.

Hurrell says Fonterra has told FrieslandCampina that it has started a process to sell its 50% share of DFE Pharma.

“Together with our partner, we have grown DFE Pharma from relatively small beginnings into a significant and successful business. While DFE continues to perform well, our ownership of it is not core to our strategy.”


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