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Tru-Test names Simon Mander as new chief executive

Monday 11th September 2017

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Tru-Test Corp has hired Simon Mander to lead the agritech company as it looks to build earnings after a hard round of cost-cutting in response to last year's dairy downturn. 

Mander started at the Auckland-based company today, replacing Greg Muir who stepped down after more than eight years in the top job. Chairman John Loughlin told BusinessDesk Mander brings "a very focused approach to cost and margin management" with a strong set of business analysis and profit maximisation skills. 

"Greg's been really good at building the size of the business, turnover is well up on his watch and we've added a whole lot of New Zealand dairy assets," Loughlin said. "Simon's there to have a fresh look at all these assets and really optimise the performance of the business." 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mander has recently been at Fletcher Building where he was the head of masonry, dricon and CSP Pacific at the building firm's Firth Industries unit and GM of transformation at its building products division. Prior to that, Mander had been the managing director of Rapak Asia Pacific, a unit of packaging manufacturer DS Smith. 

Loughlin said the company "restructured quite hard when the dairy downturn occurred", which saw the company cut 30 staff in an effort to strip out costs in the year ended March 31. That trough in the dairy sector also prompted Tru-Test to raise $12 million through a convertible note from existing shareholders AGR Agricultural Investments and KTT, the unit of Australia’s Kestrel Capital to repay bank debt. 

The company reported a loss of $3.5 million in the year ended March 31, narrowing from a loss of $14.3 million when it wrote down the value of Dairy Technology Service. Sales shrank 11 percent to $125.6 million, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation more than halved to $5.8 million. 

In its annual report, lodged with the Companies Office last month, Loughlin was more optimistic about the 2018 financial year as commodity prices helped bolster farmers' incomes, while the cost cutting measures were seen flowing into earnings in future years. 


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