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Fonterra merges rural companies

By Phil Boeyen, ShareChat Business News Editor

Monday 19th November 2001

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New Zealand dairy co-op giant, Fonterra, is merging two subsidiary companies, Fencepost and RD1, to form a larger rural retail and website business called the Rural Supply Company.

Fonterra has appointed Reid Farmers (NZSE: REI) CEO, Brian Bilas, as MD of the new venture, which will incorporate RD1's 27 AnchorMart stores, Fencepost's 21 Town and Country Stores, as well as both companies' call centres and on-line merchandising services.

Rural Supply Company will be part of Fonterra Enterprises, which is run by former Fletcher Paper boss, Alexander Töldte.

"We'll be looking to Brian and his team to drive profitable growth and aim for Rural Supply Company to become New Zealand's leading rural merchandising business," says Mr Töldte.

"Brian has an excellent record in creating shareholder value at Reid Farmers and we expect him to develop and deliver a strategy to maximise Fonterra shareholder wealth from the new company."

Mr Bilas resigned his position from Reid Farmers following the merger with Pyne Gould Guinness and the announcement that George Gould would take the top job at the company.

Fonterra says another issue in the merger is delivering web-based information to shareholders, and on-line tools and services aimed at helping farmers achieve productivity gains.

The services are currently delivered through both the Fencepost and NZDairy websites but will be brought under one umbrella.

In doing this Mr Bilas will work with another Dunedin colleague, former TasAg chief Ray Parker. Mr Parker is now Fonterra's Shareholder Services general manager.

"Fonterra shareholders need the best possible web-based services to assist with on-farm productivity gains," says Mr Töldte.

RD1 also has a tie up with listed agriculture company, Wrightson (NZSE: WRI), holding a stake of just under 20%.

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