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Guano hits Wrightson's fan

By Jock Anderson

Friday 4th July 2003

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Fighting allegations it is bent on monopolising North Island stock saleyards, rural services giant Wrightson has been ordered to show competitors documents it claimed were commercially sensitive.

Wellington High Court Master David Gendall slammed Wrightson for failing to produce any evidence to support its contention that what were largely historical records of saleyard tallies were "commercially sensitive."

Wrightson is embroiled in a row with Elders Livestock and Williams & Kettle, which claim it is breaching a Commerce Commission ruling by muscling them out of strategic saleyards at Rangiuru in the Bay of Plenty (NBR, May 9).

Holding two-thirds ownership of Rangiuru, Wrightson gained total control by leasing the remaining one-third share held by former Affco director Hugh Green, then withdrawing Elders Livestock's and Williams & Kettle's previously shared access to the saleyards and charging for their use.

Elders Livestock and Williams & Kettle consolidated High Court proceedings to challenge Wrightson's move, which they claimed was anti-competitive and monopolistic.

Master Gendall said the documents sought by Elders Livestock and Williams & Kettle "do not involve patents, trade secrets, chemical formulae, manufacturing processes, technical drawings or plan details."

He said they did not include valuations, competitive pricing calculations or "other clear material that might support arguments as to commercial sensitivity."

Master Gendall relied on the established 1882 test in Compagnie Financiere du Pacifique v Peruvian Guano Co to find the documents sought were relevant to the Rangiuru case.

While asserting that inspection of relevant documents ­ particularly those that contained pricing, costing and planning information ­ would cause significant prejudice, Wrightson offered no evidence to challenge the application for disclosure. The substantive hearing is expected later this year.

Meanwhile, in mid-May six senior staff quit Wrightson's Wairarapa office following what the company described as a "lengthy and comprehensive investigation that followed the exposure of irregularities by the company's internal procedures and processes."

Several were reported to be taking personal grievance claims against Wrightson.

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