The purchase of the Seafield meat works from the collapsed Fortex Group Ltd (in receivership) appears this month. It was purchased by Canterbury Meat Packers Ltd, ultimately owned 50% by Phoenix Meat Company Ltd and 50% by Five Star Beef Holdings Ltd. The price was suppressed. Phoenix, of which Fortex owned 15% but is 68% owned by farmer clients, is a West Coast and Nelson meat processor (Press, "Promise of 600 works jobs back", 10/8/94, p.1; "Works offer possible", 11/8/94, p. 24; "Fortexs two South Island meatworks sold for $31m", 5/10/94, p.25). Five Star is itself 50% owned by Anzco Developments Ltd and 50% by Itoham Foods Inc of Japan. Seafield itself includes 367 hectares of rural land in Canterbury. Anzco is 64.9% owned by the Meat Board (which set it up in 1984 to improve lamb sales to Japan) and 20.8% owned by Huttons Kiwi. With Five Star it owns a Beef Lot near Ashburton ("Major meat industry changes predicted", Press, 22/3/94).
Not long before Fortexs crash, Anzcos managing director, Graeme Harrison, predicted increased foreign ownership of the meat industry. He said "there had been significant changes in ownership of meat-processing companies in Australia as major Japanese and United States meat companies made their operations global" (ibid). Similarly, in July, the chief executive of the Alliance Group, Rick Bettle, warned North Canterbury Federated Farmers: "We are in danger of losing control of our business to overseas concerns. If that happened it would not be too long before we would be back to co-operatives to regain control of the industry." (Press, "Call for meat debate", 21/7/94, p.23.) An unwelcome symptom of that predicted overseas interest was the activities of a Bahamas-registered company, TA Pacific, not long before the Fortex crash. In February it took a 13.9% stake in Fortex without the proper notification to the Stock Exchange, which brought Securities Commission intervention. It sold that holding down to 9.87% shortly before Fortex announced a huge half-year loss in March (Press, "Commission to probe Fortex shareholder", 12/2/94; "Foreign investor obligations", 3/3/94; "Fortex in crisis: $40m-$50m loss expected", 12/3/94).
While the general crisis state of the meat processing industry was the root cause of its failure (see commentary on February 1994 decisions), Fortex was in a sense a victim of the Employment Contracts Act. Long before the ECA, it had forced concessions in working conditions in order to run its innovative and modern plants almost 24 hours a day and throughout the year. After a loss in the year ended 30 June 1993 it had negotiated those terms down even further. It had to, because it was now competing with other companies that had forced such conditions through under the ECA. Workers were told that the "belt-tightening" was necessary to save jobs: as events show, it did not. Other, even more ruthless, companies had undercut Fortex. (Press, "Grumpy few add to Fortexs woes", 19/2/94.) For both this reason, and the fact that it was widely touted as an example of what success technology and innovation could bring, the crash should have been a major embarrassment to the Government.
After Fortexs receivership, the two main plants run by Fortex were advertised for sale. One of the most public of the bidders was a Malaysian, Mr Lim Hong Liang, who claimed he had had agreement with Fortex, before it went into receivership, to take over the company for $25 million ("Fortex rescue starts at $50m Asian investor", Press, 22/4/94). In the end seven bids were reportedly made for the assets of the company the meatworks at Seafield near Ashburton, and Silverstream near Dunedin, and the Summit deer plant near Tauranga. They included the Primary Producers Co-operative Society and the Alliance Group (Fortexs South Island competitors), and Lim Hong Liang (Press, "Bidders for Fortex down to seven", 26/7/94, p.34). The Phoenix/Five Star bid got Seafield, and Skeggs Group Ltd of Dunedin got Silverstream, though later resold it to PPCS ("PPCS to take over Silverstream", Press, 15/10/94, p.29). The total price paid for the two plants was slightly more than $31m, but the individual prices have not been disclosed. Their book value was $107m ("Fortexs two South Island meatworks sold for $31m", Press, 5/10/94, p.25).
The U.S. TransTel Group is setting up in Aotearoa "to facilitate international expansion of its telecommunications business." Its parent company, TransTel International Inc, through subsidiary TransTel New Zealand Ltd, is increasing its shareholding in Winterfield Telecommunications Group Ltd to 60% because it "provides an opportunity through a New Zealand joint venture to expand New Zealand based telecommunications by using TransTel International Incs core business, and the EDACS and Cellular businesses already owned and established by Winterfield". Another subsidiary, TransTel Asia Pte, was originally going to own the groups New Zealand interests, but the group changed its mind to give the parent ownership directly.
The shareholding of Telecoms main tolls rival, Clear Communications Ltds, is changing with the withdrawal of New Zealand Rail Ltd. New Zealand Rail was a shareholder because Clear wanted its fibre optic system, which it gave to Clear in part payment for 15% of Clears shares, but now wants to get out. That restores the shareholding to the original, namely 25% each by Bell Canada International (NZ) Ltd (a subsidiary of Bell Canada International Inc of Canada), MCI Financial Corporation (a subsidiary of MCI Communication Corporation of the U.S.A.), Todd Communications Ltd (Aotearoa), and TVNZ Investments Ltd (Aotearoa). New Zealand Rail retains a contract to maintain the cable, which it uses for signals and other communications. The price is suppressed, but New Zealand Rail had first offered its shareholding to other telecommunications companies including the Australian company Telstra. It declined when Telecom, with which it has a reciprocal agreement, warned it off as an "unfriendly act". (Press, "NZ Rail sells 15% Clear stake", 7/9/94, p.26.)
The takeover of the Levene Group of companies by Skellerup Group Ltd is interesting if only because it reveals Skellerups as an overseas company, with 36% overseas shareholding "spread widely". Brierleys also has a 30.3% shareholding. Skellerup is taking over Levenes for $74 m. Levenes has a retail chain of 45 shops selling paint, wallpaper and home furnishings, while Skellerup has interests in finance, manufacturing, distribution, garden supplies (including Palmers Gardenworld), contracting and salt. (Press, "Skellerup buys Levene Corp", 23/8/94, p.44; "Skellerup clears air on its industrial focus", 2/9/94, p.19.)
Macraes Mining Company Ltd, owned by the Union Gold Mining Company of Australia has approval to develop the Globe-Progress gold mine which includes the leasing of approximately 5 hectares of land near Reefton. Macraes (which already runs a gold mine at Macraes in North Otago) asserts that "construction of the project will take approximately 12 months and at its peak will employ 270 personnel and during the operation of the mine and processing plant Macraes should employ 110 personnel." The mine was the subject of resource consent hearings in Reefton in September, when commissioners consented to most of the mines applications, but declined consent to the construction of a polishing pond and infiltration basin near Reefton township and to the discharge of treated mine water to the pond and ground. They also stipulated a $5.1m bond to be provided by Macraes to the local regional and district councils, and between $500,000 and $1m to the Department of Conservation. There was considerable opposition on environmental grounds, with a classic West Coast anti "greeny" reaction of refusing hotel accommodation to visitors suspected of environmental concerns. The concerns were with heavy metals in the tailings, radioactive materials, and danger to aquatic life in the nearby Inangahua River. Macraes re-applied for the missing consents in October. (Press, "Anxious town awaits decision", 2/9/94, p.21; "Most goldmine application facets accepted", 14/9/94, p.4; "Macraes re-applies for consents", 8/10/94, p.27; "River life in danger from goldmine, says society", 22/11/94, p.3.)
The Malaysian Tiong family owned company, Neil Construction Ltd is buying 31 hectares of former farm land on Schnapper Rock Road, Albany for $2 million for subdivision.
In internal restructuring, General Accident PLC of the U.K. is selling various commercial properties in the central Auckland block bounded by Queen St, Vulcan Lane, High St, and Shortland St to its subsidiary Britania Properties Ltd. The price is not disclosed.
The Southern Farm Trust, whose plan is "to invest in prime farm land in New Zealand and thereby develop and nurture a diversified farming portfolio" has permission to sell up to 100% of the units in the trust to overseas interests, for $11m. They state that "management and control of the assets remain in New Zealand hands with the unit Trustee and Manager."
In another internal restructuring, Ng Siong Tee of Singapore is acquiring a further 14% of the issued share capital of Sintau Ltd which is currently 81% owned by Ng Siong Tee and 19% by Ta Chang Pte Ltd of Singapore. The 14% will buy 14 $1 ordinary shares (for $1 each).
Released in part only on appeal (although almost completely suppressed originally) is an internal restructuring (why should it have needed to have been suppressed in the first place?) within the General Accident group (U.K.). Its subsidiary, Alburg Properties Ltd is acquiring a half interest in a commercial property at 151 Queen Street, Auckland for a still suppressed amount.