Murray Goulburn float caution

03 Jul, 2015 06:15 AM
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5
 
Ross (left) and Andrew Powell: concerned that the share issue could be a distraction to good farming. Photo: Rob Gunstone
The principle of a co-op, as with all co-ops, is to maximise the return to the farmer
Ross (left) and Andrew Powell: concerned that the share issue could be a distraction to good farming. Photo: Rob Gunstone

MURRAY Goulburn supplier and shareholder Ross Powell has cautioned other farmers not to let the partial float of Australia's biggest dairy processor "distract" them from what they do best.

And Murray Goulburn's managing director, Gary Helou, who engineered the $500 million capital raising, has also listened to the message.

There will be no fanfare when the 65-year-old co-operative begins trading on the ASX on Friday.

There won't even be a rusty cow bell to ring in the new era, despite the value of Murray Goulburn's farmer shares more than doubling after it confirmed an opening price of $2.10 per unit.

Mr Helou declined the ASX's offer of a listing ceremony, and Mr Powell, whose family has been milking cows for three generations, wouldn't have preferred it any other way.

He is concerned farmers could start placing more interest in the value of their shares - previously worth $1 each - instead of ensuring the profitability of their farms.

"Our primary income comes from being a farmer, from farming," said Mr Powell, whose family milks 460 cows at Cooriemungle in south-west Victoria.

"Murray Goulburn, the co-operative, is invaluable to us in that it takes our milk, turns into product, sells it, and gives us back the profit.

"What concerns me is the share issue will be a distraction. The most important thing about our dairy operation is to run it as business and look at ways to increase profitability from our farm - not focus too much on the unit trust issue."

Opening the gate

Murray Goulburn has opened itself to non-farm investors through a listed trust, which has raised cash to update its factories so it can produce more value-added dairy products.

The strategy is aimed at insulating the co-operative and its suppliers from volatile global commodity markets, which have seen the price of milk powder halve in the past 12 months.

For example, in New Zealand, Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, has slashed its forecast farmer payout to combat the market rout.

But in Australia the farmgate price is expected to remain about $6 per kilogram of milk solids.

Mr Powell, whose son Andrew marks the third generation of his family to farm dairy, praised the capital restructure, particularly the dividend for non-farm investors being tied to the milk price.

If the farmer payout stays around $6 a kilogram, the dividend yield will be about 7.4 per cent. This would drop to 3.5 to 4.5 per cent if the farmgate price returned to FY12, FY13 levels.

"The board and management of Murray Goulburn will be getting pressure from two sides," Mr Powell said.

"One is from the farmers and on the second side are the investors who will be happy if farmers get a good price because their return will be greater."

But importantly, Mr Powell said the co-operative will retain its farmer control because trust holders will have no voting rights.

This has caused some consternation in the investment community, with some institutions refusing to buy non-voting stock.

But Mr Powell said the structure maintained the co-operative's principles: "A co-operative is something that's very close to us," he said.

"It was formed by our forebears so the farmers could unite and take their product to a place to get processed and then sell it as an organisation.

"The principle of a co-op, as with all co-ops, is to maximise the return to the farmer. That's where the profits should go back to," he said.

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READER COMMENTS

Jock Munro
3/07/2015 7:38:40 AM

Too late now to express caution-the big end of town are on a roll and it is all over for the co op and it's key grower focused principles.
Freshy
3/07/2015 8:33:11 AM

Quite an interesting viewpoint......so your a shareholder in a company that is the sole purchaser of your product and the reason you have a business, you can now actually get some value out of those shares (my family was a founding shareholder of MG) and still we get this viewpoint? Give me a break.....what other industry in the world would have this 1 dimensional view of their business.....crazy thinking
Jock Munro
3/07/2015 11:35:41 AM

Your family received a huge among of value out of MG because you owned it and the capital was an addition to your business. You have now virtually put MG up for sale and you are receiving dividends - you cannot have it both ways- perhaps you should sell the shares now and put the money away somewhere because your company is about to start reducing your returns.
Freshy
3/07/2015 2:26:27 PM

Jock, interesting assertions. The $85 a year we get is just huge money and Ive been thinking about using the proceeds to put a bid in for Kidmans........ You might find in life you're better off to not make stupid judgements
Jock Munro
6/07/2015 7:55:29 PM

Thank you for your kind words Freshy. Are you aware that a communist Chinese state owned entity now owns 5% of MG? Not so sure that your interests and theirs will be complimentary !

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