Profits up for new owner of Westland Milk

Yili Group, owner of Oceania Dairy in South Canterbury and new owner of Westland Milk Products, has released half-year results showing year-on-year increases in operating revenue and profit following the release of its results to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Results for the first half of 2019 show that Yili's global operating revenue grew year-on-year by $1.1billion to a total annual revenue of $10billion.

The Chinese Government-owned dairy giant's net profit of $0.8 billion was a year-on-year increase of $72 million.

The announcement closely followed Yili's successful acquisition of Westland Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd for $588 million.

Yili Group CEO Mr Jianqiu Zhang described the acquisition as a significant breakthrough in Yili's global expansion, creating a ''Dairy Silk Road'' between Asia and New Zealand.

''The acquisition of Westland helps us realise our vision of being the most trusted health food brand in the world by building a vast dairy bridge crossing the Pacific Ocean, helping the world to share health,'' Mr Zhang said.

The sale followed an offer by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones of a $9.9million loan on attractive terms to Westland through the Provincial Growth Fund to help fund a new manufacturing plant for higher-value products.

The offer was withdrawn once the Yili deal became known.

Mr Jones said last month that Overseas Investment Office rules needed to be changed to make sure farmers did not keep selling the nation's birthright.

''I, as steward of the Provincial Growth Fund, was never approached [by Westland directors] as to whether or not we could look at restructuring and help shore up that company. That was never an option put to us.''

Earlier this year, Yili launched its vision of creating a ''global health ecosystem'' as part of its drive to deepen its global footprint.

Prior to the acquisition of Westland, Yili invested $660million in creating the Oceania Dairy production facility near Glenavy, one of the world's largest integrated dairy bases.

Yili also signed a strategic partnership agreement with Lincoln University to establish its Oceania Research and Development Centre.

''We are confident our investment here will continue to create better opportunities not only for our employees, the dairy farmers of New Zealand and the Westland community, but for the global dairy industry and New Zealand as well,'' Mr Zhang said.

-By Chris Tobin

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