Fonterra buys 10% stake in Lithuania’s largest dairy business

The New Zealand co-operative's €7m capital injection will provide Rokiskio with funds for a tech upgrade and international expansion.

After a five-year long commercial partnership, New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-operative Group has invested in Rokiskio Suris, Lithuania’s largest dairy producer, by acquiring a 10 percent ownership interest in the company.

While the €7.1 million investment will help Rokiskio access new markets and invest in new technologies, it will also benefit Fonterra, by allowing it to secure a supply line of high-value whey ingredients as well as establishing a European-sourcing network.

“Our New Zealand farmers will always remain our primary source of milk, but increasingly we are supporting our growth and their returns through strategic partnerships in Europe, Latin America, Australia and China,” Fonterra chairman John Wilson said. “These partnerships enable us to produce products in demand closer to the market, while providing more opportunity for milk and milk products we make elsewhere.”Founded in 1964, Rokiskio Suris transitioned from a state business to a privatized company in 1991 and listed on the Nasdaq OMX Vilnius Stock Exchange the following year. According to the company’s website, Rokiskio first attracted foreign capital in 1994, including 40 million litas ($13.4 million; €11.5 million) from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Bank of Bermuda.

Since then, the EBRD has divested its share, and Rokiskio’s largest shareholders today are UAB Dairy Industry Investment Management (with 27.08 percent) and RSU Holding SIA (24.84 percent), which both include members of the company’s management team. Antanas Trumpa, the company’s chief executive, is Rokiskio’s third largest shareholder (with 19.46 percent), according to a company document.

Rokiskio has three factories in Lithuania and produces cheese, butter, whey protein and milk powders, which it exports to both Eastern and Western markets.

“We have worked closely as commercial partners for five years and over this time we have built a strong relationship,” Rokiskio chairman Dalius Trumpa said. “Fonterra’s investment in Rokiskio Suris lifts our company to a new global level, opening up export opportunities which will generate more value from our local milk pool.”