Zespri has made good progress in strengthening alignment and grower ownership and control of the company through a targeted share offer and buy-back programme.
The offer closed on 19 October and Zespri has accepted 427 applications to purchase over 12 million shares for a total of over $95 million. Participation was open to growers who do not own shares and to growers who hold less than one share per tray of their production. Over half of the applications were from previously unshared growers and the percentage of total shares in Zespri held by growers has increased to 85 percent.
The capital raised through the share offer enables Zespri to fund in full a buy-back programme from eligible shareholders. This was targeted at shareholders who no longer produce kiwifruit and shareholders who are ‘over-aligned’, meaning that they hold over 1.5 shares per tray of production and over. There were 257 applications for the buy-back involving nearly 9 million shares for a total of over $70 million. The number of former growers holding Zespri shares has reduced by 30 percent.
Zespri Chairman Peter McBride says that the share offer and buy-back programme is a milestone in a long-term project to strengthen the industry’s foundations. Together with changes made to the Zespri Constitution in March this year, the programme addresses a problem of growing misalignment between growers who supply kiwifruit to Zespri and people who own shares in Zespri.
“A significant number of New Zealand kiwifruit orchard owners do not own Zespri shares and over 18 million shares were held by people who have left the industry,” explains Mr McBride. “Through this share offer, a good number of growers have taken up the opportunity to either become shareholders in Zespri or to increase their shareholdings in line with their entitlements.
“Share ownership gives producers the opportunity to benefit financially as both growers and shareholders, from fruit payments and via the corporate income stream. Ownership also gives growers a greater influence over the direction of their kiwifruit marketer. The share offer and the buy-back together represent significant progress in our objective to strengthen ownership and alignment.”
The buy-back programme gave eligible shareholders an effective option to sell shares, without broker fees. Take-up of the share offer and buy-back offer by shareholders was voluntary. The share offer and buy-back were at the same price of $8.00 per share, determined by Zespri’s Board on the basis of an independent valuation.