30 Nov 2012

Fonterra units boost farmers' book value

8:49 pm on 30 November 2012

Sharemarket watchers say they're astonished at the massive run-up in the price of units in Fonterra's Shareholders Fund on its first day of trading.

The price per unit jumped by 25% from their $5.50 issue price to $6.85 between noon and 5pm when the market closed.

A financial adviser says the turnover of Fonterra units during the afternoon exceeded the rest of the stock market's turnover for the entire week.

Hamilton Hinden Green adviser James Smalley in Christchurch says $170 million worth was turned over in total.

Mr Smalley says the popularity of the units is not suprising given how long traders have been waiting for a Fonterra product to enter the market.

The units give non-farmer investors the right to receive dividends from Fonterra's future profits - without owning a stake in the company.

They started trading at $6.66 at noon on Friday and $75 million worth changed hands in the first 45 minutes of trading.

Near the end of the business day, $154 million worth of units had changed hands, nearly a third of the Shareholders Fund itself.


Sharebrokers and fund managers told Radio New Zealand the price surge took them completely by surprise.

Based on the current unit price the average Fonterra farmer is worth $300,000 more than they were before the units began trading.

Prime Minister John Key says the big demand for Fonterra dividends units reflects the company's status as a global leader.

The dairy giant's de facto exposure on the Stock Exchange occurred as the company opened a new milk processing plant near Darfield in Canterbury.

The share units being traded are not actual co-operative shares but units in a Fonterra's Shareholders Fund that allows non-farmers to invest in the country's biggest company.

In effect, the units give investors rights for the first time to future profits on Fonterra co-operative shares.

NZX tips primary sector

NZX chief executive Tim Bennett says New Zealanders want to invest in local companies, and he is picking primary industries as future growth leaders.

Mr Bennett says the Fonterra units listing is significant both for capital market development, and for the country to have the first representative of the agricultural sector represented on the exchange.

Mr Key, who cut the ribbon at the new plant, said he wasn't surprised at their popularity with institutional investors and others.

Fonterra last week sold $525 million worth of units in the fund to a range of investors at $5.50 per unit.

The units also listed on the Australian sharemarket.

More than 9500 domestic investors - including those connected to Fonterra - made up 58% of the initial fund, with foreign institutions making up the remaining 42%.

Separately, Fonterra also launched its trading-among-farmers scheme allowing farmers to buy and sell shares among themselves, rather than selling them back to the co-operative when they want to leave it, or to reduce their milk production.

Fonterra farmers will have the choice of trading in both their own shareholders market and the $525 million Shareholders Fund.