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Fonterra units, shares up 24% since new strategy unveiled

Fonterra units, shares up 24% since new strategy unveiled

Farmer-owned Fonterra Cooperative Group shares and units in the Fonterra Shareholders Fund have gained about 24 percent since the beleaguered cooperative unveiled its new strategy at the end of September.

The units were last up 6.6 percent at $4.03 while the farmer-owned shares were up 6.1 percent $4.01, the highest since June. However, both the units and the shares are still down around 19 percent this year and are still worth less than half their all-time high of $8.09 in May 2013.

“It’s somewhat of a vote of confidence in the new strategy and management. They’ll need to deliver at this share price,” said Brad Gordon, an investment advisor for Hobson Wealth Partners.

On Sept. 26, the cooperative unveiled its new strategy as it posted a net loss attributable to shareholders of $557 million in the 12 months ended July 31, widening from its maiden loss of $221 million a year earlier.

The new strategy puts greater emphasis on extracting value rather than pursuing volume. The strategy also brings the focus squarely back to New Zealand.

At the time, chief executive Miles Hurrell told BusinessDesk that Fonterra sought farmer input into the new strategic direction, something he said would be helpful in getting “buy-in on the direction of travel.”

Hamilton Hindin Green investor advisor Grant Davies said the lift in the share and unit price could be due to farmers “sharing up,” or buying shares to match their production.

Fonterra suppliers are required to hold the number of shares needed to match their production: at a minimum, one share is held for every kilogram of milksolids supplied. Shareholding requirements are set June 1, the first day of the new season. Compliance, however, is tested after Dec. 1, giving them time to buy the necessary shares.

The share and unit price may have also gotten a lift after recent Global Dairy Trade auctions showed dairy prices remain resilient despite global trade tensions.

Last week, the GDT price index rose 0.2 percent from the previous auction two weeks prior. The average price was US$3,306 a tonne, compared with US$3,303 a tonne two weeks earlier.

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