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WPI signals firm commitment to grower ownership
08
Apr '11
The new Board of Wool Partners International (WPI) has re-affirmed its strategy to seek outright grower ownership of WPI, which would also include wool exporting and sales business Bloch & Behrens and the Wools of New Zealand marketing business and brands.

WPI reverted to PGG Wrightson ownership last month following the failure of Wool Partners Co-operative Ltd (WPC) to achieve a commitment from wool growers to acquire the assets of WPI and its affiliates from PGG Wrightson.

The re-constituted Board is chaired by PGG Wrightson Managing Director George Gould and comprises farming directors Jeff Grant, Mark Shadbolt and Bill Thomas.

Mr Gould said the Board, which had its first meeting earlier this week, was united in its commitment to assist a Plan B grower proposal. “While the WPC proposal wasn't successful in achieving its target level of support, one third of New Zealand wool growers had backed the plan, with a follow up survey showing a clear majority of these growers would back a new proposal.

“Taking that as our mandate, WPI, with the support and financial backing of PGG Wrightson, remains committed to facilitating this outcome,” said Mr Gould.

Mr Shadbolt, who farms 1,000 hectares on the Banks Peninsula and is also a director of Wools of New Zealand, said the focus on grower involvement was aimed at ensuring a structure that would allow the industry to secure sustainable wool prices for growers, and move away from cyclical volatility.

“While it is certainly gratifying to see prices at near historical highs, there has been little we as growers have done to structurally change the industry to ensure better price certainty and stability, without which it is difficult for growers to plan forward.”

He suggests the current in-market scenario provides a limited window of opportunity. “As the WPI business reshapes, and gains traction particularly in international markets through Wools of New Zealand and its Laneve brand, it will become more attractive as a target acquisition. Longer term there are no guarantees the current ownership will have the same willingness to transact with growers.”

Wool Partners International (WPI)

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