16 Oct 2015

Shareholders give Silver Fern deal nod

4:56 pm on 16 October 2015

Silver Fern Farms shareholders have overwhelmingly backed a joint venture deal with China's biggest meat processor, Shanghai Maling.

Chair of Silver Fern farms Rob Hewett at the shareholder meeting.

Silver Fern Farms chair Rob Hewett at today's shareholder meeting, which was attended by about 120 farmer-shareholders. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

In votes online and in person this morning at a special meeting at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, shareholders voted 82 percent in favour of the plan.

The turnout for the vote was 67 percent of eligible shareholders.

Silver Fern Farms announced a month ago it wanted to create the joint venture company in return for a $260 million investment, which would more than pay off all the company's debt.

Silver Fern Farms chairman Rob Hewett said the decision was a game-changer for the company and the whole meat industry, which he said had been under-capitalised for many years.

"The Shanghai Maling proposition is very definitely the best opportunity for Silver Fern Farms, and ultimately I think the industry," he said.

"I'm delighted that it's been brought home today, in such a compelling manner that gives us the mandate to do what we want."

John Cochrane a crtitic of the Silver Fern Farms plan.

A critic of the plan, John Cochrane, speaks at the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A second resolution put to the meeting today - a bid to get a full report on merger possibilities with a competitor, Alliance Group - was lost, after getting less than 24 percent support.

Southern farmers Allan Richardson and John Cochrane, who have led efforts for alternatives and suggested the report on a possible merger with Alliance, said at the meeting they knew the deal would go through.

They said they accepted the decision and would support Silver Fern Farms to make the new company succeed.

"I accept that the farmers have spoken and I respect that decision," Mr Cochrane said.

"I only hope that the promises [of what] this new joint ventures will bring to the company will be good for the New Zealand farmer and indeed good for New Zealand."

He said there was no doubt the deal was good for Silver Fern Farms today, but he was not sure it would still be good in 10 years' time.