Freshmax CEO denies group is for sale

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Freshmax CEO denies group is for sale

The head of New Zealand-based Freshmax Group has referred to a potential sale as "speculation", and while emphasizing an initial public offering (IPO) is unlikely in the short-term he says he can "never say never to anything".

Freshmax Group CEO Peter Ellis' comments refer to a story by the Australian Financial Review, which was cited by several produce industry publications including Fresh Fruit Portal

"Behind Maui Capital’s move to sell the Freshmax Group, I’m not aware of that. It’s speculation," he tells Fresh Fruit Portal, claiming he can speak on behalf of the fund.

He adds Freshmax Group has had significant investment over the last five years, including from Valleyfresh and the Crasborn brothers.

"I’m sure the shareholders will always remain open to such investment but to say the group is for sale, I don’t know where that’s come from," he says.

"The message is Freshmax as always is looking for investment opportunities that require capital, and that may or may not involve outside sources. There will always be speculation.

"The fresh produce industry is a very exciting industry to be in at the moment. There is a lot of interest in it and there are a lot of growth opportunities, and there are a lot of consolidation opportunities."

He says shareholders are very committed to this movement and want to be in a position to exploit opportunities "as and when they occur".

"We’re increasingly becoming an internationally focused business, leveraging counterseasonal trade with the Northern Hemisphere, and using the strengths of strong domestic businesses we have in Australia in New Zealand, and businesses that we are developing in South America and in South Africa.

The executive expects continued demand growth in China and around the Pacific Rim, with Australian and New Zealand suppliers particularly well-placed given disposable income growth in those countries where there is a desire for food security and safety.

He adds the company 'lives and dies' by its ability to add value across the supply chain; a philosophy that includes vertical integration through its own production, as well as adopting new varieties.

"We've been investing in that [IP] for some time and we’ve got a pretty exciting pipeline going forward, and we’ll see the number of commercially grown IP we control growing dramatically over the next few years," he says.

When asked about the current fruit season and upcoming crops, Ellis highlights that unlike the Australian fruit season - which has seen stonefruit harvests running a few weeks late - the New Zealand cherry deal has had very good timing in Asia.

"So the majority of the crop came on to enable perfect shipping in terms of timing with Chinese New Year," he says.

Unfortunately, China is still closed for a crop which has its harvest just around the corner for Freshmax - kiwiberries.

The crop is running a week ahead and Freshmax has been trying to open up new markets for the product around the Pacific Rim.

"Because of the bridgehead we have in there with cherries and the recognition of quality of fruit, gives a degree of brand strength to New Zealand-grown kiwiberries in those markets," Ellis says.




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