Japanese food company Itoham Yonekyu has received Overseas Investment Office blessing to buy a 100 per cent stake in meat processor Anzco.
The company already owns 65 per cent and recently applied to buy the 18.24 per cent owned by Anzco founder Sir Graeme Harrison and the 16.76 per cent owned by another Japanese company, Nissui.
Harrison said the $100 million investment to buy the shares was a “vote of confidence in the New Zealand meat industry”.
“In terms of market capitalisation and links to major Japanese corporates, we haven’t seen anything like this in the New Zealand meat industry for a long time, Itoham is much bigger than Shanghai Maling for example.”
This year Chinese company Shanghai Maling paid $261m for a controlling interest in Dunedin-based Silver Fern Farms (SFF).
Anzco is New Zealand’s fifth largest exporter and the second largest meat business after SFF with a turnover of $1.45 billion. It has 3000 employees and eight offices overseas. Itoham has a greater than US$3b market capitalisation.
“The key thing is the major shareholder of Itoham is Mitsubishi Corp, one of the top 20 corporates in Japan, which has a 39 per cent stake in Itoham. It is also linked to Japan’s number 1 bank.”
Harrison said the link with Japan was about combining New Zealand and Japanese expertise in order to target the south Asia market, especially a populous country like Indonesia.
When Anzco first forged a relationship with Itoham in 1989, it was based around the export of sheepmeat, which Itoham processed into meat items, but over time Itoham had focused on producing ham and sausage from pork.
Because pork is not permitted in Muslim Indonesia, Itoham would revive processing items based on sheepmeat.
Nissui’s association with Anzco also dates back to 1989. It is a 50 per cent shareholder in the Sealord Group.
Harrison said Anzco was the only company of its sort that began life as a marketing company and then invested into assets in New Zealand.
It has the largest commercial feedlot in New Zealand in mid-Canterbury, and is the single largest supplier of chilled beef exports. The feedlot houses up to 20,000 angus steers at any one time.
It has about 10 per cent share of the sheepmeat market.
Harrison, who signalled his retirement as chairman in 2015, said he would become a fulltime farmer after the company’s annual general meeting in April next year.