Fonterra's share and unit prices are recovering after a slump thought to have been caused by a cocktail of influences.
Dairy farmer-owned shares on Thursday dived 6.4 per cent to a record low $3.51, taking them down 24.8 per cent this year.
Fonterra Shareholder's Fund units in those shares fell 5.3 per cent to $3.55, also a record low and down 23.5 per cent this year so far.
A year ago they traded at $5.46.
Listed in 2012 at $5.57 and climbing to a record high of $8 the following year, Fonterra stock has since drifted south. It's been punished since New Zealand's biggest company last year posted a first-time annual loss, more than $6 billion debt and began a major review of the business under new leadership.
Analyst and farmer reaction to Thursday's slump was mild at the time, with no-one able to put a finger on a single cause.
Fonterra's farmer-owners responded that the share price wasn't a true measure of the company's value, and analysts said the fall wasn't entirely surprising given the forecast earnings downgrade in May and lack of progress announcements on the business stocktake.
However, Fonterra chief financial officer Marc Rivers said he was very conscious of the impact of share price falls on farmers' balance sheets.
"There is nothing new that's happened in the underlying business operations that should drive such a price drop as we saw. It's really just speculation to try to attribute it to any cause."
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However, he noted farmer-owners of distressed West Coast dairy cooperative Westland on Thursday voted on whether to sell to Chinese dairy giant Yili . They supported the sale.
On the lack of progress news from Fonterra, Rivers said some announcements about asset sales had been made and as promised, the company would fully report on its business review with the annual results in September.
"We are certainly not intentionally trying to have a news vacuum. I can promise you that if there is new news, we will come out with it. We won't wait for September."
Arie Dekker, managing director, head of research at Jarden, declined to comment directly on the sharp price fall but had some thoughts on recent market weakness.
"I suspect a lot of people are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what Fonterra comes out with..."
Recent negative commentary about the strength of Fonterra's balance sheet and a claim it pays an inflated milk price may also figure in current market sentiment, although Dekker isn't sure how seriously the claims have been taken.
"Some of that commentary is pretty misleading and uninformed."
Independent economist Peter Fraser, who has advised some of Fonterra's smaller competitors, has been vocal lately on Fonterra's poor performance, share price weakness and the milk price it pays its farmers.
Dekker said while it was true Fonterra had a lot of debt, it also had an "A" credit rating and rating agencies had shown a lot of support for the cooperative.
"But what they have said is you're at risk of a downgrade if you don't get debt down this year, hence Fonterra is selling some assets."
Dekker said the company was doing that in an orderly fashion with no evidence of a claimed "fire sale".
"That's quite different to their balance sheet being under massive pressure ... it's not under financial duress. Fonterra enjoys a strong investment grade rating, in large part because of its cooperative structure."
As for Fraser's suggestion that Fonterra is paying its farmers 50c/kg milksolids too much for milk, Dekker said if that was the case, independent dairy processors would be making a loss and would not be expanding as they are in New Zealand.
"Certainly they would like Fonterra to pay less as it would improve their profitability but the overpayment (claim) is not consistent with the investment they continue to make in the sector."
Fonterra collects about 80 per cent of the country's raw milk and so sets the market milk price benchmark.
"Fonterra's issues are mainly because they made a lot of poor investments over the last five or six years. They are looking to address that by simplifying the business and becoming much more disciplined in investments they make - and working within a smaller envelope of capital investment," Dekker said.
Fonterra's issues are mainly because they made a lot of poor investments over the last five or six years. They are looking to address that ...
On the negative commentary, Fonterra's Rivers said the best thing the company could do was focus on improving its performance and "finding solutions".
But he wanted to "set the record straight" on some claims, including comparisons between Westland's forced sale and Fonterra's future.
"We have a strong credit rating and we have a solid plan to improve our performance. Those are the two reasons that make us quite different."
Rivers said the way Fonterra calculated its milk price was "sound and objective".
"And it's something overseen by the Commerce Commission. And we are certainly not in a fire sale."