Shareholders of Australian dairy processor Murray Goulburn have overwhelmingly approved the $1.3 billion sale of the co-operative to Canadian dairy giant Saputo amid some sadness over Murray Goulburn’s demise.
More than 98 per cent of proxies were voted in favour of the sale at the shareholders’ meeting in Melbourne on Thursday.
Murray Goulburn shareholders, who have been extensively briefed on the sale since it was announced in October 2017, appeared resigned to the sale, asking no questions on the resolution seeking their approval for the takeover.
Back in October, dairy farmers vented their fury and disappointment at the Murray Goulburn board at the co-operative’s annual general meeting. On Thursday, just one dairy farmer on the floor lamented what had been lost.
“It’s a very sad day – I think most of us here feel that we are attending a wake, ” he said.
Supplier and Murray Goulburn director Craig Dwyer said Thursday was a momentous day given what the co-operative had meant for so many families and communities over its 68-year history. Dwyer said Murray Goulburn was not about who had supplied or worked for the co-operative for the longest time, or who has the most shares.
“It is about the farms, the factories and the families,” he said. “The MG family encapsulated all, from the night shift operator, the tanker driver, the field service team, right up to senior management.”
But Dwyer said it was time to look to the future, with the growing global demand for dairy products and Murray Goulburn’s assets and brands were being sold to an ethical, family-oriented business in Saputo.
“I would encourage you all to give them a chance to prove themselves with your supply, and build on the foundations created by so many of you and your hard-working dairy farming predecessors,” Dwyer said.
Murray Goulburn chief executive Ari Mervis said Saputo had shown itself to be a trusted processor in Australia through its ownership of Warrnambool Cheese & Butter. Murray Goulburn was confident that Saputo would honour all commitments to suppliers, including collecting milk on terms no less favourable than those that Murray Goulburn is currently providing.
Saputo’s takeover of Murray Goulburn still requires approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board but the Canadian firm hopes to finalise the acquisition by May 1. Murray Goulburn’s fortunes have soured since April, 2016, when the co-operative unexpectedly slashed the price it paid farmers for their milk.
That prompted many suppliers to quit the industry or shift to other processors. Since April 2016, Murray Goulburn has lost 45 per cent of its milk intake. Murray Goulburn believes that the sale to Saputo will ensure a competitive milk price for suppliers and maximise value for shareholders. Shares in Murray Goulburn’s listed entity, the MG Unit Trust, were steady at 95.5 at 1430 AEST.