Bega eyes more buys

25 Oct, 2017 01:42 PM
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Bega's executive chairman Barry Irvin told shareholders that a recently completed $172 million capital raising
Bega Cheese has always maintained a strong balance sheet...
Bega's executive chairman Barry Irvin told shareholders that a recently completed $172 million capital raising "significantly strengthened our balance sheet and positioned the company well to grow and respond to corporate opportunities".

The dairy and food company Bega Cheese has signalled its willingness to make further acquisitions and expand, telling shareholders fresh opportunities for growth would inevitably arise.

Investors attending Bega's annual general meeting on Tuesday were given a number of messages that the company was interested in growing, and that it had the financial capacity to do so.

The comments were made as a number of dairy companies, both Australian and international, are believed to have lodged expressions of interest in the troubled dairy processor Murray Goulburn. Bega is expected to be one of them.

Bega has already shown its willingness and ability to expand, with its recent acquisition of the iconic Australian brand Vegemite, which came when it bought the Mondelez grocery business.

Bega's executive chairman Barry Irvin told shareholders that a recently completed $172 million capital raising "significantly strengthened our balance sheet and positioned the company well to grow and respond to corporate opportunities".

Paul van Heerwaarden, in his first address to a Bega AGM as its CEO, also picked up on the growth theme.

"Bega Cheese has always maintained a strong balance sheet, believing that we should be in a position to respond to business opportunities if and when they present themselves. These opportunities will inevitably include both organic growth and acquisitions," he said.

"A very strong balance sheet positions us well for growth. Increasingly we consider opportunities that extend beyond dairy but are consistent with our competencies in the manufacturing of high-quality dairy foods and nutritional products."

At no point during their speeches did either Mr Irvin or Mr van Heerwaarden say that Bega wanted to acquire Murray Goulburn.

Murray Goulburn is expected to update the market on the latest developments in the bidding process for the business at its annual general meeting in Melbourne on Friday.

In recent months a number of farmers who used to supply MG with their milk have swapped to Bega, while other dairy farmers have swapped to other processors.

Mr Irvin didn't mention Murray Goulburn by name in his opening speech to Bega shareholders on Tuesday, but noted: "It has been a challenging number of years for dairyfarmers and it is unfortunately well documented that strategies or approaches for farmgate milk price that do not reflect changes in the market are extraordinarily risky.

"While in the short term they may be welcomed by farmers it is self-evident that such strategies create peril not only for the farmer, but for the company as well."

AGE

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