Posts Tagged ‘Murray Taggart’

Time to walk the talk

September 15, 2017

There are large operators, small suppliers, traders and third party agents and, in times of tight livestock supply, the lines between them start to get a bit blurred and the classifications move around, depending on who is making the judgement. (more…)

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Alliance in good shape

November 12, 2016

Alliance has produced a solid result for the year ended 30 September with a pre-tax profit of $10.1 million compared with $7.9 million for the previous year achieved on 9% lower revenue of $1.366 billion. Of greater significance to farmers is the decision to distribute $9.8 million to shareholders, while the company’s equity position has improved from 58% of assets to 72%. Debt reduced from $129 million to $41 million with no seasonal debt at year end. (more…)

Alliance enforces shareholding commitment to match supply

February 16, 2016

After many years competing for livestock without compelling suppliers to invest in the full number of shares required in principle, Alliance Group has seized the opportunity offered by Silver Fern Farms’ likely shareholding change to review its capital base. (more…)

Season has contrasting impact on Silver Fern Farms and Alliance

November 29, 2015

The two biggest meat processors had contrasting experiences during the 2015 season to judge by their annual results and accompanying comments. There is no doubt Silver Fern Farms found life easier than Alliance, with respect to the year in question. SFF must also have heaved an enormous sigh of relief after its improvement from the previous three years. (more…)

Democracy, apathy or revolution

August 19, 2015

MIE has to be given credit for its persistence with its campaign to persuade Silver Fern Farms and Alliance to look seriously at the benefits of merging as opposed to continuing to beat their respective heads against the brick wall of competition. But the outcome depends on several planets aligning at the same time. (more…)

Silver Fern Farms forecasts positive result for the year

July 25, 2015

A note to shareholders last week updated the company’s position after 9 months and predicted a substantial improvement on last year. Gains have occurred across the board with sales up 8.6% or $150 million, debt $100 million lower and improved inventory turnover. (more…)

MIE plan stimulates debate but won’t fix the problem

April 1, 2015

The Pathways to Long-Term Sustainability document launched earlier this month makes some very valid points about the red meat industry’s shortcomings, but its recommendations are almost certainly impossible to implement. (more…)

Plenty of interest in moratorium proposal

December 6, 2014

Although not all parties are in favour of it, the proposed moratorium on chain and plant licences has provoked a lot of debate and reaction from all parts of the red meat sector. (more…)

Changes at the top for both meat cooperatives and a return to profit for Ferns

November 12, 2014

The announcement by Silver Fern Farms which signalled a return to profit, albeit a small one, also heralded a changing of the guard. Keith Cooper will retire as Chief Executive at Christmas following Rob Hewett’s move into the chairman’s role earlier in the year.

 

There is a neat synergy about these developments which are mirrored by the changes at Alliance Group where Owen Poole handed over as chairman to Murray Taggart at the last AGM, while Grant Cuff has already announced his retirement as CEO. There will inevitably be speculation about whether either or both have been pushed or have gone in their own good time.

 

The word from the respective chairmen is that both Keith and Grant have gone entirely of their own accord after many years of loyal and competent service in one of the most competitive and bruising industries there is. It wouldn’t surprise me if both, especially Cooper, have decided there must be a less stressful way of spending their working life before they reach the age at which they want to put their feet up.

 

Running SFF during a period of substantial industry change involving seriously reducing sheep numbers, cut throat procurement competition and a perpetually weak balance sheet must have taken its toll. That said, Keith has always been unfailingly prepared to answer phone calls and questions while fronting a lot of the meat industry’s essential public relations issues.

 

Grant Cuff has taken a completely different approach, probably because he is by nature much more reticent than his counterpart; he was also content to take a backseat role and allow his chairman and predecessor as Chief Executive to front the industry restructuring issues. Alliance had had its worst period back in the late 80s after acquiring Waitaki’s South Island assets and under Poole’s management had never allowed itself to fall back into a similarly stressed financial position.

 

While not profitable every year, Alliance has successfully navigated its way through the last 20 years with its balance sheet intact as well as making the right investment and rationalisation decisions at most points along the route. The company remains a genuine cooperative based principally in the South Island. Cuff’s contribution as a manager and more recently as Chief Executive should not be underestimated.

 

SFF has had a much more colourful time over the same period. It entered the 90s as Primary Producers Cooperative Society (PPCS) with no assets outside the South Island, but had a reputation as a hard-nosed, tightly run business that did things its own way without showing any weakness to its competitors. Fortex which collapsed in the early 1990s learned the hardest way of all the rashness of baiting PPCS in its own back yard.

 

By the early 2000s PPCS, under CEO Stewart Barnett and chairman Robbie Burnside, fought a bitter campaign to take over Richmond based in Hawkes Bay. This takeover was eventually successful, although it weakened PPCS which became the country’s biggest, but possibly weakest, meat company. Supplier disaffection saw a steady loss of market share, while the asset base was in need of both rationalisation and reinvestment which has required substantial bank debt.

 

Keith Cooper took over from Barnett in 2006 since when he has led the company through a renaming exercise, the development of a high profile branded consumer meat business (although this is not yet necessarily profitable), sale and closure of a number of assets, establishment of FarmIQ and the conversion from cooperative to ordinary shares. This has been achieved in spite of heavy losses and a weakening balance sheet against a background of rumours about the company’s ability to survive.

 

At the present unlisted share price of just above 40 cents, members ordinary shares valued at $136.5 million in the 2013 annual report, have a market value of a little over $40 million funding assets of $833 million. This week’s announcement talks of debt being reduced by $100 million which will certainly bring down the $35 million interest bill as well as improve the debt to equity ratio, but the real need is for an urgent and significant improvement in equity.

 

According to the chairman Rob Hewett, equity options presented in the PriceWaterhouse Coopers report are still six months away from being able to be evaluated and presented to shareholders. It seems that a further move away from SFF’s previous cooperative status is inevitable.

 

The small $5-7 million unaudited pre and doubtless post tax profit is trumpeted as a $40 million improvement over the previous year’s result, but as a return on the massive asset base it is pretty minimal.

 

Cooper is getting out under better performance circumstances than would have been the case a year ago, but the jury is out on how successful his legacy will be. The new CEO Dean Williamson will need all his experience gained from running Riverlands as part of Brierley Investments meat business 20 years ago, as well as some new skills if he is to return SFF to fully profitable safety.

 

In retrospect and in spite of a much lower key tenure, Grant Cuff leaves the meat industry with a more substantial record of achievement.

Strange rumblings from the deep south

February 6, 2014

The appointment of an independent director should normally be an uncontroversial exercise, but Alliance Group has run into some public relations problems, as it seeks to find a successor to its previous chairman, Owen Poole. (more…)