China’s Bright Food gets nod to buy 50% stake in NZ’s largest meat processor in $191m deal

New Zealand approved on Tuesday the sale of a 50 percent stake in the country’s largest meat processor Silver Fern Farms to a unit of China’s Bright Food Group, enhancing the South Island-based company’s access into the Chinese market.

The approval of the NZ$261 million ($191 million) deal is an encouraging outcome for Chinese investors, following a high-profile rejection and complaints over the slow approval process.

The Dunedin-based company had voted in October to allow Shanghai Maling Aquarius Co, a unit of Chinese state-owned enterprise Bright Food Group, to take a half-share in the firm and applied for approval from foreign investment regulators the same month.

Minister for Land Information, Louise Upston, who approved the deal after it received the go-ahead from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), said in a statement it would “put the company in a better financial position and allow it to increase its exports”.

Silver Fern Farms Chairman Rob Hewitt told Reuters the capital invested would allow the company to develop its brand and strategy.

The company is particularly focused on the China market, their biggest by volume, and can take advantage of Bright Foods’ supply chains and 8,000 Chinese supermarkets.

“It’s the fastest growing protein market in the world so it’s going to bring significant benefit,” Hewitt said of Bright Foods’ involvement.

Shanghai Maling President Wei Ping Shen said in a statement the regulatory approval “clears the way for us to move ahead with the partnership”.

Chinese companies have in recent years been attracted to New Zealand’s agricultural sector as the Asian giant seeks sources of high-quality protein to feed its fast-growing middle class. However, some Chinese investors have hit roadblocks from political opposition to foreign ownership of domestic assets.

In September 2015 the New Zealand government blocked the NZ$88 million purchase of a local farm by China’s Shanghai Pengxin, despite the OIO approving the sale. The government said at the time they were not satisfied there would be “substantial benefit” to New Zealand.

Investors have also complained the OIO process was slow and uncertain, a problem the government acknowledged in May when it announced plans to speed up approvals by employing more staff.

Neighbouring Australia has also grappled with concerns around foreign ownership of farmland and rural businesses.

Early this year, the government rejected a bid by a China-led consortium to buy Australia’s S. Kidman & Co, the country’s largest agricultural land owner, concluding the offer for Kidman and its agricultural land, about the same size as Ireland, was not in the national interest.

By Charlotte Greenfield

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.