By Allan Barber
One of Japan’s two largest meat processing and marketing companies, Itoham Yonekyu Holdings, has received OIO consent to increase its shareholding in ANZCO Foods from 65% to 100%. It will acquire the shares currently held by ANZCO’s management (18.24%) and Japanese food company Nissui (16.76%) as a carefully planned transition which will see founder and chairman, Sir Graeme Harrison, retire at the company’s AGM in March.
Itoham Foods have held shares in ANZCO since 1995 when they combined with ANZCO management to complete a buyout of the New Zealand Meat Producers’ Board, forerunner of Beef + Lamb NZ, in 1995, having formed a 50/50 JV with ANZCO in 1989 to establish Five Star Beef Limited with its large scale feedlot near Ashburton. Nissui, a joint owner of Sealord with Maori, have also been involved since the beginning, so this latest transaction means the end of a 28 year association.
In 2015 Itoham increased its shareholding in ANZCO from 48% to 65% and Itoham Yonekyu was formed the following year by the merger of Itoham Foods and Yonekyu Corporation, the second and seventh largest Japanese meat companies. The merged company is a listed public company in Japan with some notable investors, the largest of which is Mitsubishi Corporation with 39%.
Itoham has signalled that there will be no change to ANZCO’s business operations in the foreseeable future which is a credible claim, when one considers the stability of the investment since the beginning. There have only been three CEOs, Harrison, Mark Clarkson who retired earlier this year and current incumbent Peter Conley, while the Japanese owners have maintained a constant board presence.
Stability of ownership is important for any business, as it demonstrates faith in management and overall strategy. In ANZCO’s case the company has always had a close link to the Japanese market, emphasised by its ownership structure, starting out as a Japan focused subsidiary of the Meat Board before the management-led buyout. The first joint venture to establish Five Star Beef and its associated feedlot was designed specifically to source and rear Angus prime steers which had the two main advantages of being pure black, like Wagyu, and being able to produce the intermuscular seams of fat, known as marbling, which is much prized in Japan.
Although ANZCO has expanded over nearly 30 years to encompass sheep meat processing and other types of beef, the company’s key point of difference has at all times been to add the maximum amount of value to every animal it processes. As New Zealand’s fifth largest exporter – I haven’t checked this fact, but it is included in ANZCO’s press releases – ANZCO is a New Zealand success story and its overseas ownership has contributed positively to, rather than hindered, its success.
It is a great example of the benefits that accrue from overseas investment of the right kind. We can do with more such examples.
This article appeared earlier in Farmers Weekly. It is here with permission.