The sale of Elders’ half share in Australian Wool Handling signalled a bigger focus on wool in its agency businesses, Elders chief executive officer Mark Allison said in Hamilton this week.
At Hamilton’s Sheepvention Mr Allison said Elders’ eight-point plan encompassed expanding its agency businesses, which included wool.
“For us, in being able to get our debt down to an acceptable level, then signals us starting to grow again and focusing much more on our agency businesses.”
Australian Wool Handlers is a national logistics business, jointly owned by Elders and Landmark, handling about two-thirds of Australia’s annual wool clip through 15 wool receival locations.
“The AWH business, the way we see it, is a logistics business and we are an agri-business and we want to focus on our wool (and livestock) clients and not on storage and logistics,” Mr Allison said.
He said the proposed sale of Elders’ AWH share was in the final stages.
“We are progressing the divestment.
“We are in the final stages,” he said.
Mr Allison said the feedback from wool growers at Sheepvention on Elders’ asset divestment process had been very positive.
“I think, in the real world, doing what you say you are going to do is important.”
“And for the last 12 months Elders has done what it said it was going to do,” he said.
“From our client viewpoint, our financier viewpoint and from our people’s viewpoint, it’s very, very positive.”
The core Elders business would not be sold in the future “for the wrong reasons”, to pay down debt, he said.
“Our view, the board’s view is that we want to maximise the value for all of our stakeholders and shareholders included and a divestment or a sale of Elders in the future would indicate that Elders is doing very, very well.”
Mr Allison said Elders had to focus constantly on its clients to keep the business “real”, relying on client feedback to finetune company direction.
“In my mind, it has to be real and it has to focus on the client.
“So I spend one week in four around the network with the clients,” he said.
“But not just in the network – in Indonesia and in China – with our customers there, to be absolutely clear what’s important to them so that is a critical part of our decision-making.
“I’ll do the same with the executive committee – the management team – that they need to do exactly the same so that we don’t have any city-based views,” Mr Allison said.
“They’ve all got to be real views – what’s really happening in regional and rural Australia.”
Mr Allison started his working life as an agronomist and is from far north Queensland “where everything needs to be real”.
“So in all roles, every company I’ve run, I’ve done the same to keep in contact.
“We don’t lock in and set and forget, we continually amend and continually amend, based on our feedback.”