16 Mar 2011

Farmers plan fresh bid for Wool Partners

4:30 pm on 16 March 2011

Farmers behind a new wool co-operative are planning a fresh bid to buy the Wool Partners International company.

The Wool Partners Co-operative was forced to give up on its first attempt last month after failing to get the support it needed from sheep farmers to make the venture viable.

It asked farmers to invest at least $55 million in shares and commit half of the country's strong wool clip, but ended up with about $40 million in share subscriptions from farmers representing 30% of the strong-wool supply.

Wool Partners International (WPI) is now set to become a fully owned subsidiary of PGG Wrightson, which financed it as a joint venture when it was formed.

PGGW says, though, that it's open to a further move by farmers to acquire the business.

Managing director George Gould says his company acknowledges that the co-operative raised more capital than any other farmer co-operative capital-raising in New Zealand that it's aware of - and that, he says, proves that growers would like to own their industry.

In the meantime, Mr Gould says, it's business as usual.

New prospectus in pipeline

A representative of the co-operative, Banks Peninsula farmer Mark Shadbolt, says they're already working on a new prospectus.

Mr Shadbolt says the long-term aim is still to get farmers to commit more than half of the strong-wool supply but the co-operative may consider a staged approach to that goal.

He says it will also look at the potential for involving other entities in the venture.

That could include the country's biggest wool exporter and scourer, Wool Services International, whose biggest shareholder, Plum Duff, is on the market after being put into receivership because of the South Canterbury Finance collapse.

Mr Shadbolt says the co-operative is surveying all the farmers who supported the initial capital-raising effort, asking what they think should be included in the new prospectus.