1 Sep 2015

Concerns over banks' influence on Silver Fern Farms

12:41 pm on 1 September 2015

A farmer shareholder of Silver Fern Farms is concerned that banks may be pressuring the co-operative to sell to foreign investors to reduce debt levels.

meat processing (stock photo)

Photo: 123RF

Silver Fern Farms is the country's largest meat co-operative and is seeking $100 million in new funding to help reduce its debt.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he had been told Chinese investors were looking for a $100 million stake in the company. Silver Fern Farms would not comment.

Shareholder spokesperson Alan Richardson said farmers strongly opposed foreign investment.

He said the co-operative had significantly reduced its debt over the past two years, and could continue to run by itself without a cash injection.

"Silver Ferns could trade by itself quite well, based on $120 to $150 million of debt, or around 60 percent equity, that's very similar to Alliance and so history would suggest they could trade profitably. They've entered into a capital raise, which is still carrying on, even thought they're back to these sorts of levels," he said.

"Logic would suggest that banks have got the screws on them. We've had no comment from Silver Fern Farms on that. As farmers we're the only ones that can ask the hard questions, and those hard questions need to be asked of the banks. Why is this being forced through? Why do we need foreign capital in our meat industry? The banks do need to front up on this."

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