18 Apr 2012

Fund managers sceptical over Fonterra investor fund

10:47 am on 18 April 2012

Local fund managers are expressing scepticism over Fonterra's plan for an investor fund where farmers can cash up their share of future profits.

The plan is included in legislation before Parliament paving the way for a "Trading Amongst Farmers" provision for Fonterra shares.

The co-operative hopes the separate investor fund will reach $500 million and reduce risks to its balance sheet.

Both it and the Government say farmer milk payments will be open to scrutiny and will be fair to farmers and investors alike.

But Tower Asset Management chief executive Sam Stubbs says it could be up to two years before it invests in the fund.

It says it wants to be sure the process for setting the milk price is transparent and not open to manipulation before it invests.

Harbour Asset Management managing director Andrew Bascand says many investors are likely to take a cautious approach to the fund.

He says the key issue for Harbour is working out the voting rights and whether this investor fund is "equity-like enough" to satisfy its mandates.

Mr Bascand says a company investing funds on behalf of others must be sure it has the ability to vote "if it is not enjoying the investment experience".

He says his firm will be reading the prospectus before making up its mind whether to invest.

Mr Bascand says any reluctance by local investors could clear the way for foreign investors to take a bigger stake in the fund.

"There's global interest in this particular investor fund," he said.

"Globally people know about Fonterra, they know it's New Zealand's largest company - here's an exciting way to participate in the dairy industry."