Fonterra's first two stages approved

Fonterra has successfully manoeuvred through the first two stages of capital restructuring, with shareholders yesterday overwhelmingly supporting two of the three proposed changes.

About 300 shareholders attended Fonterra's annual meeting in Ashburton, with more than 89% of votes cast at the meeting and before it supporting the changes.

The changes would allow shareholders to hold shares worth up to 120% of their milk production, and changes to the way shares were valued to reflect that ownership were confined to farmers.

Support from 75% of voters was needed to pass each resolution.

Chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden said the size of the vote gave him "great confidence in the co-operative and our future".

Farmers had told the board they wanted 100% control and ownership of the co-operative, and they had demonstrated that through the ballot box.

"They said give us the opportunity to back our co-operative. Today, they have stepped up to the plate in a big way to strengthen our co-op."

The changes were designed to attract more capital to the company and to also reduce redemption risk.

However, farmers and the board have not yet debated the third and most contentious aspect of the restructuring proposal: allowing the buying and selling of shares between farmers rather than through the co-operative.

Farming leaders have already said changes to the proposal were needed to get their support, as it shifted risk from the company to farmers and it could open the door to non-farmer investors.

Yesterday's voting result has was hailed by Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman Blue Read, who said it was an investment opportunity for Fonterra farmers.

Mr Read said he had never seen a more genuine consultation process and it was evident farmers had been listened to.


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