Reducing debt key focus for Allied Farmers

Last updated 07:48 28/11/2012

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The mood was muted at Allied Farmers' annual meeting in Hawera yesterday, with just 28 of the company's 20,000 shareholders in attendance.

After a difficult year, the performance of New Zealand Farmers Livestock (NZFL), of which Allied farmers owns 68 per cent, was a highlight for the company, chairman Garry Bluett said.

NZFL operated as a completely separate company and made a trading profit of $400,000, even with the loss of all its livestock agents in Manawatu and some in Taranaki.

Allied Farmers was happy with NZFL's performance and was in the process of transferring ownership of its saleyards to the new company.

Bluett said Allied Farmers still had a lot of debt, with interest costing $2 million a year.

Its key focus was reducing debt so the company could return to profitability and grow.

At 20,000, the number of shareholders was large for the size of the business, but it did not have the funds to buy out owners of small shareholdings.

In response to a shareholder's question, he said the board would investigate whether previous directors were liable for shareholders' losses when Hanover Finance was acquired.

"But all decisions were made on the best information available at the time."

Allied Farmers' results showed a considerable write- down of $9.3m of Hanover and United Finance assets.

Corporate costs had been slashed from $2.5m to $1.7m.

Sales of property at Jack's Point, Queenstown, looked set to be finalised in the next few weeks and would realise $1.8m.

Allied Farmers now owed $17m to the Crown after Crown Assets Management Ltd (CAML) took over the assets of finance companies during the year.

The company wanted to change the conditions of its working capital facility and was waiting for CAML's response to its request.

Chief executive Steve Morrison said NZFL was a separate business with a board of directors whose expertise was livestock.

It was a sound, financially robust, profitable business working for farmers and with farmers and in which clients' funds were secure.

NZFL's bull plan had proved an attractive finance option for farmers wanting service bulls and online business Mylivestock.co.nz was a platform for NZFL to grow nationally.

Allied Farmers' real estate business was also performing well, its profitability had ramped up and staff numbers in the North Taranaki office had been bolstered, he said.

The shareholders also learned the company's head office was now in Stratford rather than Hawera.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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