* Weighs option to list Australian operations
* Plans to return NZ$1 billion to shareholders by FY24
* FY21 profit up 54%; final dividend 15 NZ cents per share
(Releads with IPO details, CFO comments)
Sept 23 (Reuters) - Fonterra Co-operative Group
is considering an initial public offer of its
Australian operation, the worlds biggest dairy exporter said on
Thursday, in an exercise that could return about $700 million to
shareholders by 2024.
The first public revelation of the plans to list comes after
the New Zealand dairy giant scaled back its global ambitions
with a strategy to phase out overseas "milk pools", cut debt and
focus on local production.
"It's a self-contained business, so there is a possibility of
partnering effectively by taking some capital off the table and
bringing some external investors," Chief Financial Officer Marc
Rivers told Reuters in an interview.
"That's why we announced our intention to explore that
partial sale," he said, adding that Fonterra would retain a
significant stake as Australia was a destination for a lot of
New Zealand milk.
The process has just begun, with Fonterra exploring the
level of interest for an IPO, Rivers said.
The company owned by its 10,000 New Zealand farmer
shareholders said it was also reviewing the ownership of its
milk pool in Chile.
About NZ$1 billion ($700 million) of the divestment proceeds
from the Australia and Chile businesses will be returned to
shareholders by 2024, Rivers said.
"If our strategy is focused on New Zealand milk, then we
don't need capital tied up for that," he added. "We can harvest
that, release it and bring that in."
Fonterra reported after-tax net profit of NZ$599 million
($419.36 million) for the year ended July 31 on Thursday, down
NZ$60 million from a year earlier.
It also proposed a new capital structure for new farmers to
enter the co-operative more easily, as part of the strategy to
claw back domestic market share.
Fonterras share of the domestic market for milk processing
dropped to 82% by 2019 from 96% in 2001, with consultants TDB
Advisory saying at the time it was expected to reach about 75%
The new structure will also limit non-farmer investment in
the listed Fonterra Shareholders Fund to protect farmer
ownership and control.
(Reporting by Sameer Manekar and Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru;
Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Clarence Fernandez)