Silver Fern Farms suspends shares pending capital raising news

Meat processor Silver Fern Farms has suspended trading of its shares on the Unlisted exchange until further notice as it continues with its capital raising initiatives.

The company said it would make no further comment at this stage.

Shares in the co-operativee last traded at 35 cents, valuing SFF at $35.1 million

The farmer-controlled co-operative has more than 6,200 shareholders and over 16,000 farmer partners.

It is currently trying to raise $100 million of new capital through investment bank Goldman Sachs, which is most likely to come from offshore.  SFF’s debt had been cut to $288.6 million from $387.6 million the previous year and it wants the $100 million to repay more bank debt, upgrade plant, and boost its value-added product strategy.

In a note to shareholders last month, chairman Rob Hewitt said the capital raising process was continuing and although the co-op initially thought it could announce something in June, that was now more likely to be July or August.

SFF is also required to hold a special meeting over a potential merger with Alliance Group after Otago farmer Allan Richardson gathered the required 5 percent of votes to force the meeting.  Disgruntled Alliance shareholders led by Jeff Grant and Gaye Cowie have similarly gathered sufficient votes to force a special meeting of Alliance to discuss the same issue.

But SFF’s Hewitt has said the company has had previous inconclusive discussions with Alliance and the board felt it best to continue its quest for new capital.

Alliance chairman Murray Taggart said this week that for any merger to proceed it needed two willing parties who were “profitable, have strong balance sheets, certainty around livestock supply, and are operating in a stable/growing business environment”.

He said Alliance was meeting again later this month with the meat industry reform group, Meat Industry Excellence, to discuss its proposal for a new export meat co-operative which would merge Alliance and SFF, but based on current information, he said the board’s view was that the size of the merger prize identified by MIE’s consultants GHD was unrealistic.


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