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Phantom rival bidder for NZ Dairies cries foul over Fonterra purchase process

Monday 6th August 2012

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A phantom bidder claiming to have offered a better deal for New Zealand Dairies' South Canterbury milk powder plant is urging the antitrust regulator to investigate the sale process where Fonterra Cooperative Group emerged as the top suitor.

In a confidential submission on Fonterra's application for clearance to buy NZ Dairies, the rival called on the Commerce Commission to "investigate the fairness of the sale process" which it says put "significant pressure" on suppliers to accept the Fonterra proposal. The unnamed bidder claimed to have trumped Fonterra's undisclosed winning bid.

"The receivers may have elected for other reasons not to pursue the offer, but the perception that the Fonterra offer was the best is not correct, and we request that this be corrected," the submission said.

"The Fonterra offer was clearly not the best offer on the table, but the receiver chose not to pursue other options and yet Fonterra claim not to have pursued the acquisition. This process should be investigated," it said.

Fonterra bought the plant out of receivership in June after NZ Dairies' Russian parent Nutritek was declared bankrupt earlier in the year. Nutritek was set up in 1990, with operations in Russia and the Ukraine before it expanded its footprint into New Zealand.

The unnamed rival was told its bid was unsuccessful as it needed Overseas Investment Office approval, the submission said.

The submission referred to an international equity investor whose chief executive and main shareholding are New Zealanders who are "extremely keen and interested to invest in NZ."

The bidding company was "formed to invest in and operate dairy farming and dairy processing assets."

The investors have primarily been in energy and recently showed an interest in pastoral farming and dairy production, the submission said.

The bidder "has for the past three years been researching the NZ dairy industry and is very interested to invest," it said.

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