The Government has given the go-ahead for Chinese company Shanghai Maling to buy a 50 per cent interest in meat processor Silver Fern Farms (SFF).
An application for the purchase was made to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) late last year, following an overwhelming vote of support from SFF shareholders.
Shanghai Maling offered to invest $261 million into New Zealand’s largest meat processor co-operative.
It is a decision that has left SFF chairman Rob Hewett “delighted”, and one that he said he never doubted.
Finance Minister Bill English said the deal had been tested by shareholders, but he would not be drawn on whether he considered it a good one for farmers.
“The owners have made the decision and they think it’s a good deal. The meat industry has struggled with capital, and China has become a big customer,” English said.
The proposed investment was now “unconditional” and was set to be completed on January 4 next year, the first business day of the new financial year for the partnership.
At one stage this year, the deal encountered spirited resistance from a shareholder group led by Englishman and high country runholder John Shrimpton.
The group forced a second shareholder vote, but it was again an emphatic win for the supporters of the agreement.
NZ First has been vocal in its opposition. It took the deal for review to the Financial Markets Authority and the Companies Office, claiming the SFF had misrepresented its financial situation to shareholders.
On Tuesday, NZ First leader Winston Peters said the deal was “reward[ing] corruption and deceit”, claiming SFF had understated its profit and overstated its debt.
Peters has been trying to force his views on the thousands of farmers who own SFF. The company had a serious risk of going bust without this investment. The farmer shareholders could have lost a lot of money if it had. Peters has no shares. His hysterical opposition would not see him lose one cent. He didn’t care about the actual farmers who own shares in SFF. It was just a weapon for him.
Over 80% of shareholder farmers voted for the deal. It was a decision for them, not for Peters. If he thinks he knows better than the farmers of NZ how to run a $2.4 billion a year turnover company, then he should seek to put his own money into it, rather than destroy value for those who have.