Horticulture

SPC boss optimistic

By Alana Christensen

SPC is expected to have a new owner by the end of the financial year, with an Australian company tipped to take over the Shepparton-based business.

After putting SPC on the market in November, owner Coca-Cola Amatil last week wrote down the value of the company, but SPC managing director Reg Weine said the outlook continued to remain positive.

The company moved to ease concerns, saying the ‘‘accounting adjustment’’ would have no effect on SPC jobs, production or operations.

CCA announced its plans to revise the books last Monday, writing down the value of SPC from $146.9million to a nominal value of zero for the 2018 year.

‘‘I think importantly what it signals is Amatil’s intent to sell the business and to create options and consider all options that are on the table,’’ Mr Weine said.

‘‘We think it’s a really attractive asset for the new owners.’’

Mr Weine said he believed the company would likely be sold to an Australian buyer, despite interest from Europe and the United States.

More than a dozen parties have toured the Shepparton factory in recent months, with firm offers expected to be submitted by the end of March.

Employees and the business continue to be optimistic about the sale, according to Mr Weine, who said the pathway into China and a number of growth areas made it an ‘‘attractive’’ purchase.

He did, however, acknowledge the business has had challenges.

‘‘It is a business that has got some significant headwinds, some of our core areas remain under pressure including canned fruit and canned vegetable,’’ Mr Weine said.

‘‘I think it’s really about operational leverage and how we can put some volume back into these wonderful assets.

‘‘The fact is we return $1.73 to the Victorian economy for every $1 that’s spent on SPC products. We are the second largest employer in the Goulburn Valley and Shepparton.’’

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes Coca-Cola Amatil has a moral responsibility to achieve the best outcome for the region as it seeks to sell SPC, given its position in the Shepparton region for more than 100 years.

Ms Sheed said the sale must be about more than just commercial considerations.

‘‘This is a time to look forward and the sale of SPC is an exciting opportunity to find a new home for the company that is more aligned with what we do here in the Goulburn Valley,’’ she said.

‘‘I would urge Coca-Cola Amatil to put our community first and choose a buyer with a focus on securing a strong and sustainable future for our agricultural region.’’