Top Kiwi firms act as AU private equity buys NZ’s largest egg producer

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Two top Kiwi firms have advised as Navis Capital buys a majority stake in New Zealand’s largest egg producer, Mainland Poultry.

Bell Gully advised the Sydney-based private equity firm, while MinterEllisonRuddWatts advised the agribusiness giant and its shareholders in the deal that’s pegged by Australian newspapers to be worth between NZ$300m to NZ$350m.

The Minters team was led by former chairwoman of the firm Cathy Quinn, who heads the firm’s M&A and private equity teams, and Silvana Schenone, corporate and commercial partner.

Financial details of the deal, as well as the exact stake bought by Navis, were not disclosed – it still requires regulatory approval from NZ’s Overseas Investment Office. However, Mainland’s founding shareholders will “retain a significant shareholding in the business,” according to the New Zealand Herald. Senior managers will also be retained.

Navis bought the majority stake through ANZ Bank after it was retained by Mainland to look at sale options. It fought off rival bids such as those from Pacific Equity Partners, Adamantem Capital, and other major players in Asia.

The private equity outfit clinched the deal through its plan for capital expenditure needs of the poultry company in the coming years. Mainland needs between NZ$40m and NZ$80m of capital to update facilities to comply with revamped animal welfare laws.

Mainland’s 1.2 million layer birds, which currently produce a third of NZ’s eggs, will have to be housed in larger colony cage systems or free-range facilities instead of typical battery cages because of legislative changes.

Mainland produces eggs through its Zeagold Foods business, which markets eggs under the Woodland and Farmer Brown brands. It also produces animal feeds through its MainFeeds unit.

Navis, which manages about US$5bn, has past experience investing in the poultry industry in the UK, Europe, Thailand, and China. It is reportedly interested in buying Freshmax, the fruit and vegetable giant that’s registered in Australia and based in NZ.

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