29 Oct 2012

Farmers may be pressured to trade shares for cash

6:25 am on 29 October 2012

Dairy farming representatives have suggested that some highly indebted farmers may find themselves under pressure from their banks to sell the economic rights to some of their Fonterra shares for cash.

Fonterra has released details of the shareholders fund which it's launching next month as part of its Trading Among Farmers plan.

TAF will allow outsiders to invest in the dividend earnings from shares that farmers deposit in the fund, in exchange for the cash value of the shares.

Federated Farmers dairy chair Willy Leferink says it could be an attractive option for farmers facing debt pressures, and he expects some to take it up, with strong interest from bank managers as well.

Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton does not anticipate a big rush of farmers to use the fund.

But he also thinks some could come under pressure from their banks to join it, if milk payouts don't improve.

But Mr Houghton questions whether exchanging shares for cash would make much of an impact on debt reduction.

"If you take out the percentage of shares they can redeem over the scale of their mortgage most likely it would only affect 1 or 2% of their indebtedness, and so it's not going to be the golden handshake that's going to save some of these people."

The offer to farmers to sell the economic rights to their shares opens on 2 November and closes on 21 November.

The offer to investors buying the dividend rights opens on 5 November.

Fonterra is aiming for a minimum fund size of $500 million and says it will issue shares itself to make up any shortfall in the short term if farmers do not deposit enough.