Westland Milk Products has lowered its predicted payout range another 5c following a board meeting last week.

Shareholders were advised following the meeting on Tuesday that the bottom line had dropped to $6.05 a kilo of milk solids for the 2017-18 forecast payout range, which was formerly forecast to be $6.10 to $6.30.

The final payout less dairy company retentions for 2017-18 is expected to be announced on September 25 following the next board meeting, in line with previous years' announcements.

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The co-operative for the current 2018-19 season is predicting a payout range of $6.75 to $7.20.

It has cited several key factors in the prediction for an improved performance after a few years of difficult trading. These include improved sales and a better sales outlook; much improved performance from Westland's infant and toddler nutrition (ITN) and UHT plants; and consumer butter was a star performer.

A well-informed source close to Westland Milk Products said yesterday the revised bottom line at this late stage did not bode well for the co-operative and farmers.
"I'm feeling that the balance sheet is going to take a hammering," they said.

In light of this the cost to shareholders on a month to month basis for consultants undertaking the major capital structure review by Macquarie Capital and DG Advisory, on behalf of the board, was questionable and the board should be transparent on cost.

The fees were reportedly in the realm of $500,000 a month plus extras although the urgent need to re-look at how Westland operated was undisputed, the shareholder said.

A Westland spokesman said they would not answer a commercially sensitive question such as what theboard was paying Macquarie.

If shareholders felt they were not privy to that information, even if they had asked, then the co-operative would communicate that directly to them, the spokesman said.

- Brendon McMahon