Suitor for Murray Goulburn said it would have kept Kiewa dairy open and xenophobia linked to its China partner was behind bid being rejected

Bird's eye look: An aerial view of the Murray Goulburn dairy at Kiewa which has been earmarked for closure next year.
Bird's eye look: An aerial view of the Murray Goulburn dairy at Kiewa which has been earmarked for closure next year.

A BIDDER for Murray Goulburn, that vowed to keep the Kiewa dairy open, believes “xenophobia” related to its Chinese links was behind its offer being rejected.

TasAsia Dairy partnered with Shanghai Pharma for a $1.75 billion bid for Murray Goulburn but it was rejected last month in favour of a $1.31 billion takeover by Canadian company Saputo.

A TasAsia spokesman said he felt the bid failed “because of the xenophobic attitude” directed at Chinese investment in the farming sector.

“If you look at the statistics of the increasing consumption of the Chinese market you can’t ignore it and demand will obviously flow through to farmers’ pockets,” he said.

“It has to be xenophobia, rather than financial, based on Murray Goulburn’s own stated public position on finances.”

The TasAsia representative pointed to a $100 million undrawn credit facility which he said Murray Goulburn chief financial officer David Mallinson had referred to in August and the ability of the co-op to tap into money from the federal and Victorian governments.

Murray Goulburn did not reply directly when asked if Chinese xenophobia was a factor in rejecting TasAsia.

A spokesman said: “The board’s unanimous view was that the Saputo transaction represents the best outcome for our suppliers and our investors.”

TasAsia’s representative said if it was successful it would have seen milk production returned to Kiewa.

“It would have remained open and further developed.

“We had plans to enhance its fresh milk capacity for export markets.

“The TasAsia Dairy bid was the only one that us and the NUW (union) are aware of that would have kept Kiewa open.”

NUW North East organiser Neil Smith said it was “extremely disappointed” a proposal which would have kept Kiewa open had been snubbed.

But he is still hoping Saputo may keep Kiewa running.

“If Saputo are happy to wait and look at it I think they will see it’s viable to keep cream cheese,” Mr Smith said.

“If they do want to close we’re seeking a commitment they will sell it, that it won’t be mothballed.”

Murray Goulburn has announced Saputo chief executive Lino Saputo will be in Australia from today until November 16 to attend supplier meetings, including one in the North East.​

The Kiewa plant is due to close next year.

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