SPANISH food giant Ebro has failed in its bid for control of Australian brand Sunrice after key farmers rejected its $610 million takeover bid.
Sunrice will now remain in Australian hands despite a majority of shareholders supporting Ebro’s offer. In a line-ball ballot yesterday, Ebro failed to secure the 75 per cent of votes necessary for the deal to proceed.
Ebro, the world’s largest rice trader, had offered $50,000 per A-class share and $5.025 per class-B share to buy the monopoly Australian rice exporter.
At the vote in Jerilderie, NSW, 76 per cent of B-class shareholders agreed to the takeover. But among the more powerful A-class shareholders, made up of 800 active rice growers, only 67 per cent backed the deal.
The Sunrice board had recommended that shareholders vote in favour of the Ebro proposal to help the business manage debt acquired in buying storage sheds from the NSW Government five years ago.
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Sunrice chairman Gerry Lawson last night said the board now needed to reduce its $300 million debt pile.
Mr Lawson stood by the board’s decision to support the offer tabled by the Spanish multi-national.
“This level of support strongly endorses the board’s decision to put the Ebro proposal to shareholders,” Mr Lawson said.
He said Sunrice would now look at all “options available” to maximise value for growers and shareholders.
“We will now focus our efforts on how best to underpin Sunrice’s future . . . we will take action to address Sunrice’s high debt and enable the company to continue to grow.”
Sunrice emerged out of the Ricegrowers Co-operative Mills Limited, first established in 1950, and was listed as Ricegrowers Ltd six years ago. It employs more than 600 people in Australia, mostly in NSW.
Ebro, listed in Madrid, has a market capitalisation of 2.6 billion ($A3.4 billion).