2 Jun 2012

Voting process begins on Fonterra trading scheme

6:41 am on 2 June 2012

Voting packs on restructuring proposals for New Zealand's biggest corporation, Fonterra, are being sent out from Thursday.

The proposal involves Trading Among Farmers, which would allow farmer-owners the dairy cooperative to buy and sell shares among themselves.

It would also let outside investors buy dividend rights of farmers' shares without having voting powers on company policy.

Fonterra is asking farmers to confirm their support in a second vote, after concerns were raised that could undermine their ownership and control of the co-operative.

Simon Couper resigned as Shareholders Council chair over the issue last week, despite assurances from the company that farmers' total ownership will not be compromised.

New chair Ian Brown says the full details will quash some concerns. He says the council is comfortable with how the TAF plan is progressing, but there are other conditions to be met alongside farmer support before the council can approve it.

The Fonterra board says details of the plan in the voting packs should allay farmers' concerns that control of the cooperative could slip away.

However, Lachlan McKenzie, a Rotorua farmer and former Federated Farmers executive member, has read his pack and is unconvinced.

"There is no agricultural cooperative anywhere in the world that has introduced outside equity into the cooperative that has maintained its focus on its core purpose of benefitting its supplying shareholders."

The outcome of the vote will be announced at a special meeting at the end of June.