Tuesday, 27 March 2018 07:55

High quality handover at Fonterra

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Outgoing Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings. Outgoing Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings.

Outgoing Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings says the normal tenure of a global chief executive is between five and seven years.

Spierings, who will complete seven years at Fonterra in September, says he will be working towards “a high quality handover”.

Discussing his exit from Fonterra was “an awkward moment that doesn’t happen too often in life”.

But he says in big companies it was very normal to look at succession plans.

“When I came I said I see really Fonterra as the envy of the dairy world; actually that’s what it is.

“We are the highest paying co-op in terms of cash payout in the world and I’m extremely proud of it.”

Spierings admits not everything has gone according to plan over the last seven years.

The controversial Beingmate investment in China remains an issue for the co-op.

Spierings says choosing Beingmate was the right decision.

He noted that when Fonterra chose Beingmate in 2014, it was the leading local infant nutrition brand in China; founder and majority shareholder Xie Hong had been named entrepreneur of the year.

“Yes, that was the right decision but we have certainly learnt lessons since then.

“China evolves very quickly; to have 18.8% stake in a publicly listed company in China with regulations increasing pretty quickly is not easy, to say it mildly.”

He says Beingmate and its founder were also slow to embrace e-commerce.

But he says Fonterra is not looking for a new partner in the infant formula sector in China.

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