Speculation rife

By Geoff Adams

Prospective buyers for SPC have been sniffing around the factory, but it is not yet clear who has the inside running.

Country News understands SPC’s owner, Coca Cola Amatil, is keen to move the sale ahead in the first part of the year, but is not saying anything about who is the favoured purchaser.

CCA has said it expected a sale to be concluded by mid-year, and there had been ‘‘interest from overseas’’.

Over the past few weeks there have been media reports that grower, packer and warehouser, Geoffrey Thompson Holdings, is interested.

But they are not saying anything to us, yet.

Certainly a local buyer with experience in handling fruit would have to put them at the front of the pack in terms of being a preferred buyer, and with a substantial asset backing they would certainly have the capacity to borrow the cash for a new purchase.

But whether they would want to get into the fraught area of Australian food processing?

There have been several groups which have toured the Shepparton factory, no doubt spurred on by the news that CCA has almost written-off the value of the whole SPC operation, leading to speculation that a bargain may be available.

The price tag is certainly nowhere near the $500million or so, that CCA paid for it 15 years ago. The company has invested about $250million since then.

Country News understands a community group, pulling together different business people, has also put its hand up.

And there is the former SPC chair, Haset Sali, who told us earlier this year he was interested in being part of a buy-out.