No dividend, but Alliance's system sorted

Shareholders who packed out the Alliance Group Ltd roadshow meeting in Oamaru last week were told they are not getting a dividend.

Chairman Murray Taggart, an Oxford farmer who has taken over since Owen Poole retired on September 30, said times had been ''tough for meat processors and exporters''.

The equity ratio and operating cash flow were good, but not sufficient for a dividend.

The company had upgraded its system to avoid a repeat of the recent market access problems, Mr Taggart said.

Incorrect labelling of meat sent to China meant 240 workers were stood down from the Pukeuri plant from August 8 to September 19.

There was an improved outlook for the new season and Alliance needed to maximise its returns to farmers, he said. Loyal suppliers were shown preference, with advance payments that applied to cattle and deer as well as lambs.

The company wanted lamb and some cattle for the post-Christmas period, chief executive Grant Cuff said.

Stock free of antibiotics would receive a premium for shipment to Canada, but that was only available to suppliers in the loyalty programme.

Shorn sheep would get a premium in February and bellied would get one in May.

After withstanding pressure to pay suppliers' transport costs, Alliance would cover cartage from the start of January, Mr Cuff said.

There would be ''a little bit of averaging'' across suppliers to do so, ''but not much''.

''There are lots of companies out there. We offer more than anyone else.

''We are owned by you. The livestock price is the bottom line, not profit for private owners.''

The Alliance balance sheet was ''picking up strength again'' and overheads were being reduced. There were fewer chains handling more stock, with turnover per person up 150% from the early 1990s.

''The red meat industry has not failed. It has changed, as the world has, as agriculture has. I believe the changes we've made have been significant and successful.''

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