Fonterra has recognised that too high a proportion of its investments target long-term returns and more cash is needed shorter-term, says interim chief executive Miles Hurrell.

In an email to the dairy co-operative's 10,000-odd farmer-owners, Hurrell discussed the portfolio review announced last week at the time Fonterra posted a historic annual loss of $196 million.

He wrote the review would cover investments, major assets and partnerships, starting with the company's troubled investment in China's Beingmate baby food company.

"This review is likely to put a spotlight on things we need to change......for example, we recognise that too high a proportion of our investments are targeting a return over the longer term and we need more cash being delivered in the shorter term.


"The overall balance of our portfolio will be looked at as part of the review."

Hurrell could not be contacted to elaborate.

Fonterra's board and senior managers are on the road this week meeting farmer-shareholders around the country to discuss the company's annual results.

One shareholder told the Herald "there appears to be little regard for the shareholder capital that's been squandered and the implications for that on farmers' balance sheets".

Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman Duncan Coull said last week $2 billion had shifted in the carrying value of farmers' investment in Fonterra.

Hurrell in his email said a number of shareholders had been asking whether it was time for Fonterra to review its business strategy.

"The core of our strategy is about creating the most value possible from your milk. We're not looking to change this."

The $196m loss was the first annual loss the company's creation in 2001 from an industry mega-merger under special enabling legislation.


The previous year's net profit was $745m.

Fonterra's gearing ratio bumped up by 11 per cent to $6.2 billion, driving the gearing ratio to 48.4 per cent.

Most of the increase in the gearing ratio came from the previously advised $232m payment to French food giant Danone in compensation for Fonterra's false botulism contamination scare, and a $439m writedown in its 18.8 per cent holding in Beingmate.

Ratings agency S&P Global Ratings said it would be keeping a watching brief on Fonterra's debt after the result.

Fonterra's share price has settled at $4.97 after the result - more than 20 per cent down on the start of the year.