GREEN PASTURES: Clover CEO Johann Vorster. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
GREEN PASTURES: Clover CEO Johann Vorster. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

JSE-listed Clover Industries’ share price shot as much as 13.55% to R16.01 on Friday morning, after the company reported it was in negotiations with a third party for its potential acquisition.

SA’s largest dairy producer, which has a market capitalisation of R3bn, is in the midst of a pivot from its core dairy business to focus on value-added products, as well as non-dairy food products.

In September, the group reported its first loss in more than a decade after writing off a loan to its recently unbundled subsidiary, Dairy Farmers of SA (DFSA).

Clover took a R439m hit, which then equated to almost 17% of its market capitalisation, but maintained that this write-off of debt was an accounting measure, and masked underlying improvements in its performance, according to CEO Johann Vorster at the time.

The interested party is unlikely to be Tiger Brands, which has its own share of problems, and is trying to bring down the number of products already in its portfolio, said Ron Klipin, portfolio manager of Cratos Wealth.

Interested parties could include Zeder, which may be looking to diversify from its holdings in Pioneer Foods, he said.

Clover was likely to be attractive to private-equity investors, including through its focus on value-added products, and becoming less exposed to raw milk sales, which are highly cyclical in nature.

“Clover management has done the right things in terms of restructuring the business, making it more appropriate to current market conditions,” Klipin said. Consolidation in the sector should be expected, and many food producers continue to see their margins squeezed as they absorb costs rather than fully passing them on to consumers, he said.

On Friday at 10.35am, the group’s share price was 12.62% higher at R15.88.