VOTE: Mackay Sugar Racecourse Mill.
VOTE: Mackay Sugar Racecourse Mill. Caitlan Charles

Mackay growers come to Nordzucker deal decision

UPDATE 7.20PM: More than 90 per cent grower support for Nordzucker's takeover bid has demonstrated strong community support for the deal, Mackay Sugar chief executive Mark Day said following tonight's Extraordinary General Meeting. 

"To get to this point was critical for Mackay Sugar," Mr Day said. 

"I think it's very good that (the support) is so strong, because it shows the grower community is behind this deal. 

"It sends a very good signal to Nordzucker that they're very supportive." 

Following the meeting, attended by more than 600 growers, cane grower representative Jeff Grech described the delicate nature of the proposal for Nordzucker to acquire 70 per cent of the embattled Mackay Sugar.  

He also took the opportunity to call for "unity" in the industry after months of uncertainty.

"I'd just like everyone here tonight to know how difficult this proposal was and how it could have gone wrong so many times," Mr Grech said. 

"I know there's been a lot of people that have criticised in the past, but it's time now to unite and overwhelmingly, you've shown that tonight." 

Mount Martin cane farmer Phil Mifsud said there was a sense of relief amongst growers during the EGM. 

"There was also a feeling of surprise, because a lot of people were thinking it wasn't going to go that way, that we weren't going to get the percentages," he said. 

"There were a lot of naysayers who were very vocal. Commonsense has prevailed." 

UPDATE: CANEGROWERS Mackay Area Committee Chairman Paul Schembri tonight welcomed news that a 75 per cent majority of grower/shareholders has approved the proposal put by German sugar producer, Nordzucker AG, to secure the future of Mackay Sugar.

Mr Schembri said he was present when news that the required number of Mackay Sugar's 800 sugarcane grower/shareholders had voted 'yes' at an extraordinary general meeting at the Mackay Entertainment Centre.

"It is a real confidence booster, not only for the industry but also for the whole business community that services the industry in Mackay.

"Growers have shown the courage to back the deal in order to secure the future of their crop and stabilise the industry after several years of uncertainty," Mr Schembri said.

"The decision to partner with Nordzucker will see welcome funds directed to investment in the company's three mills to upgrade their performance and boost their reliability so as to ensure crops can be crushed reliably in an efficient, shorter season length.

"This will be a huge relief for growers who have been living with great uncertainty after several seasons of poor milling performance with breakdowns and crops left in the paddock. It will hopefully bring to a rapid and positive close the questions about the company's overall financial viability after it laid bare its perilious financial situation in 2017.

"Growers will retain a 30 per cent shareholding in return for Nordzucker's capital investment  in the company to undertake capital and maintenance works on the mills.

"The funding will also repay the $2/t grower levy in two tranches. The certainty that that money will now be returned will be a huge weight off growers' minds. I thank the growers for their financial contribution to the company. For many, it has not been an easy financial burden to bear."

Mr Schembri said that CANEGROWERS Mackay was pleased to have played a role in the process to secure the successful outcome.

The vote brings to a close the complex and protracted negotiations between all parties over two years.

Mr Schembri said he looked forward to the days ahead of working with Mackay Sugar's new board and management.

"Nordzucker is a good fit for Mackay Sugar as it has been a grower owned sugar company for 180 years in the German industry," he said.

"Mackay growers and Nordzucker are now in a mutually dependant working partnership. Nordzucker may have the controlling 70 per cent interest but their investment needs to be backed by good communications and working closely and harmoniously with the growers."

BREAKING: Mackay growers come to Nordzucker deal decision

BEFORE: MORE than 75 per cent of shareholders have backed German sugar giant Nordzucker's takeover deal of Mackay Sugar.

The historic vote, which took place during an Extraordinary General Meeting at the MECC this afternoon, means Nordzucker will acquire 70 per cent of Australia's last remaining grower-owned sugar milling company, which has faced significant financial woes in recent years.

A 'yes' vote was anticipated in the lead up to the ballot, and last month Mackay Sugar said support for the change to the cane payment formula was indicative of the level of voting support for the Nordzucker transaction to proceed.

As of Thursday, 771 growers had backed the CCS change, leaving 45 outstanding.

Mackay Sugar chief executive Mark Day last week said if the vote was successful, the last remaining growers would need to agree to changing the cane supply payment formula from PRS to CCS - one of the conditions imposed under Nordzucker's acquisition.

Nordzucker would then take over 70 per cent of the company from August 1.

"The board of Mackay Sugar, except for myself, will resign and we'll call for three (new) grower directors," Mr Day said.

"There will be two weeks to call for nominations. We will do some interviews. Then hopefully by about August 19 or 20 we will have three new directors."

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