Hong Kong investment company First Pacific has taken a US$280m ($408m) bath on the sale of its half share in Australasian food group, Goodman Fielder.

Singaporean palm oil giant Wilmar this week picked up the 50 per cent of the company that it did not already own.

Wilmar will pay US$180m for the holding and will also take over US$95m in shareholder loans and may pay another US$50m after 2020 if Goodman Fielder meets certain earnings targets.

First Pacific and Wilmar picked up Goodman Fielder in 2015 for A$1.37 billion.


Wilmar said "significant improvements" in Goodman Fielder's performance could be created if the business was wholly-owned and managed.

Going on Goodman Fielder's New Zealand accounts, a significant improvement will indeed be required.

In its latest filing with the Companies Office, Goodman Fielder NZ said its loss over calendar 2018 came to $14.6m against a profit of $51.9m in the previous year, which itself was inflated by a gain on the sale of brands of $85m.

Revenue in 2018 was steady at $956.4m but general and administration expenses shot up by 44 per cent to 82.6m, reflecting site closure and restructuring costs.

Net financing bumped up by 10.5 per cent as a result of increased borrowings.

In Australia, the parent company reported a net profit A$38.7m for the year after booking restructuring costs of A$45.8m.

First Pacific said the sale of Goodman Fielder - one of its biggest holdings - fulfilled a management commitment to streamline the company's investment portfolio.

The Hong Kong-listed investment company said it would use the proceeds to finance debt reduction and for share repurchases.


The transaction is expected to result in the company recording a non-cash non-recurring loss of about US$280m, it said.

In New Zealand, Goodman Fielder has 13 manufacturing sites and employs 1800 people.

The company exports Meadow Fresh UHT milk and is the name behind brands such as Vogels and Molenberg bread, Chesdale, and Edmonds, among several others.

Wilmar, one of Asia's leading agribusiness group, is ranked among the largest listed companies by market capitalisation on the Singapore Exchange.

Its business activities include oil palm cultivation, oilseed crushing, edible oils refining, sugar milling and refining, manufacturing of consumer products, specialty fats, biodiesel and fertilisers as well as flour and rice milling.

The company has over 500 manufacturing plants and an extensive distribution network covering China, India, Indonesia and some 50 other countries and a multinational workforce of about 90,000 people.

Wilmar, as a big player in palm oil, frequently clashes with environmental groups over deforestation issues.

Goodman Fielder has had a checkered history in recent years.

The company was founded by the late Sir Pat Goodman and his brother Peter, in 1986, then taken over by Graeme Hart's Burns Philp in 2003.

Hart, through his Rank Group vehicle, re-listed Goodman Fielder in 2005.

Ten years later, the company was taken over by Wilmar and First Pacific.