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Westland Dairy Farmers Vote On Fonterra Merger

16th January 2002

Westland dairy farmers have given a resounding “no” to dairy giant Fonterra¹s merger proposal, at a shareholders¹ meeting held today.

The Fonterra offer was unanimously rejected by Westland Milk Products 335 voting shareholders at a special meeting, held in Hokitika.

Early last week, Westland Milk Products¹ Board of Directors had recommended that shareholders reject the proposal, which Chairman Ian Robb says was essentially the same as Fonterra¹s earlier merger offer. That offer was turned down by 95.4% of Westland shareholders in June 2001.

Westland¹s shareholders have been considering Fonterra¹s offer since the beginning of the year.

Mr Robb says the vote reflects local dairy farmers¹ confidence in the future of the local industry and their desire to remain in control of dairy production in their region.

"It is clear that Westland dairy farmers value their independence and believe strongly in the prospects for the local industry,¹ says Ian Robb.

Westland Milk Products Acting CEO/ Operations Manager, Hugh Little says the co-operative has achieved some remarkable successes in recent years and has mapped out a clear strategy for future growth.

"Last year, Westland gave farmers the best shareholder return in the country, $5.20/kg of milksolids, and had a record turnover of $211 million," says Mr Little.

"With a $60 million whole milk powder plant in Hokitika already under construction and plans by Landcorp, our biggest shareholder, to invest $20 million in expanding its dairy production in Westland, we are in very good shape for the future."

Ian Robb says he hopes the shareholders¹ vote will finally resolve the issue of a merger with Fonterra.

"Local dairy farmers have carefully weighed up their options and given their final answer," says Ian Robb.

"I hope we can now get own with the business of running our own dairy company, as we have been doing successfully for over 65 years."


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