14 November 1997

Dairy Crest share action

A NEW association has been launched this week, designed to stem the flow of farmer share- holders away from Dairy Crest.

Dairy farmers initially held a 70% stake in the company when it was floated on the Stock Exchange a little over a year ago. But this has slipped to below 60% as cash strapped producers have been tempted by an escalating share value.

The group, known as the Milk Producers Dairy Crest Shareholders Association, is being run by Wilts-based businessman David Parker.

"One of the aims of the group will be to create a market for Dairy Crest shares between producers," says Mr Parker. Investment managers Capel-Cure Myers will buy and sell shares on the open market on behalf of members, aiming to maintain a large joint holding in the company. And they will monitor the register closely to warn of any big shifts in share ownership.

"Producers are becoming more aware that there could be a preemptive strike on Dairy Crest at any stage as they have seen with Genus," says Mr Parker. "There is also a belief that Dairy Crest is undervalued. The association aims to protect their interests."

But he denies there is any intention to interfere with management. Whatever producers may feel about Dairy Crests objections to Milk Marques selling system or processing activities, it is not for the shareholders association to get sucked into these debates. &#42