NZ First against Silver Fern Farms deal

  • 05/09/2015
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters (File)
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters (File)

New Zealand First is urgently drafting a private members' bill to try to head off the potential sale of meat exporter Silver Fern Farms to foreigners.

Chinese interests may be close to acquiring 50 percent of SFF, in a deal that would increase the dominance of New Zealand's biggest meat exporter and erode farmer control of the industry, shareholders pushing for a merger with Alliance Group said on Friday.

Dunedin-based SFF has been seeking a $100 million capital injection to strengthen its balance sheet before banking facilities expire in October and hired Goldman Sachs last year to assess options.

Its shares were halted from trading on the Unlisted platform last month and the company briefed influential farmer shareholders last week, ahead of an expected public announcement next week.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters expects a sale involving "Chinese moves" to be announced on Monday.

"New Zealand First is urgently drafting a Meat Industry Restructuring Bill in an attempt to head this off," he said.

"We have lost too much ownership in other industries and today we say enough is enough," he said.

Shareholder Allan Richardson, who heads the SFF merger group, says the word from farmers attending briefings is that a foreign-owned company is looking for a 50/50 joint venture and equal boardroom control in addition to making a $100m investment.

A spokesman for SFF declined to comment, citing commercial confidentiality, and instead released a newsletter sent out to farmer shareholders last week that said the co-operative expects to conclude the capital raising process in the next 2-4 weeks and "if a compelling proposition is tabled, recommend that to shareholders".