Friday, November 16, 2018
 Fonterra Payout Boosts New Zealand Dollar  

By Simon Louisson

Dairy giant Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd. on Tuesday sent the New Zealand dollar soaring to a 13-month high after it announced a 12% boost to its forecast payout to its 10,500 shareholder-farmers due to strengthening global demand.

The announcement by Fonterra, which provides a quarter of the country's exports and accounts for around 40% of the world's dairy trade, is expected to inject 750 million New Zealand dollars (US$530 million) in total into the beleaguered New Zealand economy, boosting gross domestic product by 0.4% on a one-off basis.

Economists said it may also indicate that New Zealand's second-quarter gross domestic product data, due Wednesday, could beat consensus forecasts.

The Auckland-based company forecast its payout for the season to May 31 would rise to NZ$5.10 per kilogram of milk solids from NZ$4.55 previously.

The announcement was preceded by a pleasant surprise on the economic front -- that the country's second-quarter current account, the broadest measure of New Zealand's financial dealings with the world, was in surplus to the tune of NZ$124 million, compared to the NZ$2 billion deficit forecast by economists. It was the first quarterly surplus since the March 2003 quarter.

Optimism on the economy sent the Kiwi up by over a U.S. cent to US[Article].7170, its highest level since Aug. 22. It has jumped by over 45% since early March.

"That Fonterra news was much, much better than expected and the current account news was much better than expected," said HSBC New Zealand's foreign exchange manager Daniel Brdanovic, who forecast the Kiwi could zoom up to US[Article].7250.

Westpac economist Doug Steel said the "mild upside surprise" from Fonterra's news would almost certainly mean the country would soon pull out of the recession in which it has been mired since the start of 2008. He said it could give the currency fresh upward momentum.

That may happen as early as Wednesday. The consensus forecast of a Dow Jones Newswires poll is for second-quarter GDP to have contracted by 0.2% from the previous quarter, but some economists now say there is the potential for GDP to grow modestly for the quarter.

Still, whether the recent string of positive news is enough to persuade the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to budge from its easing bias is debatable, as the stronger currency means monetary conditions have tightened and exporters face more headwinds.

The central bank has promised to keep the Official Cash Rate at, or below, the current record low of 2.5% until the latter part of 2010, although markets are pricing in a tightening in the first half.

Finance Minister Bill English said the current account improvement was mainly due to falling imports and an improvement in exports was essential.

"If we want a strong recovery that provides sustainable jobs and growth we need to lift our export performance, which has remained relatively static."

But Fonterra Chairman Henry van der Heyden said the revised payout forecast reflected "a sustained improvement in commodity returns and a more positive outlook in international dairy markets."

Chief Executive Andrew Ferrier said the strong increases in prices for whole milk powder in auctions in the past two months "echo a broad strengthening of demand and robust recovery in international dairy prices. … What we're seeing in the international market is the firming of a trend, with a more positive sentiment and stronger demand producing better pricing across the board."

Farmers have seen global milk prices fall 50% from their peak in November 2007 to a nadir July, but they have rebounded over 50% since.

Mr. Van der Heyden said the level of the New Zealand dollar remains a concern but this had been fully factored into the revised 2009/10 forecast.

On Friday, Fonterra announced a three-step plan to strengthen its stretched balance sheet by up to NZ$900 million, by allowing farmer shareholders to buy more shares than milk production from their farm entitles them to. It reiterated that a public listing isn't in the pipeline.

Source: Wall Street Journal – New Zealand

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 (Archive on Tuesday, September 29, 2009)
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