Silver Fern Farms hires Zespri's Limmer as CEO

Exiting chief executive Dean Hamilton announced his resignation in July.

Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand's biggest meat company, has tapped Zespri International's chief operating officer Simon Limmer as its next chief executive, saying he adds experience in food, manufacturing and key markets such as China.

Limmer will replace Dean Hamilton, who announced his resignation in July after three years in the role, a period that saw the original cooperative owner sell half the company and a controlling boardroom vote to China's Shanghai Maling.

Limmer has worked for Zespri for nine years including COO and as general manager for China. Prior to that, he worked for France's Veolia.

His experience "gives us confidence he will be able to continue our development as a consumer-oriented food business," said Silver Fern co-chair Rob Hewett. Limmer "has a clear affinity with NZ agriculture", experience leading large teams "and has a strong affinity and understanding for farmer-producers - which is a critical part of the ongoing success of Silver Fern Farms."

Limmer received the Prime Minister's Scholarship in 2010 and completed the INSEAD Singapore - Asian International Executive Programme, Silver Fern said. In 2015 he attended the Te Hono Movement NZ Primary Sector Bootcamp at Stanford University.

Silver Fern posted a $30.6 million loss last year that included a $22.4 million impairment charge related to the Shangai Maling investment. Since then it has closed its plant at Fairton in what is the first move to address its processing over-capacity since Shanghai Maling came on board.

The Shanghai Maling deal enabled Silver Fern to repay its debt, removing a threat from its banking syndicate to withdraw support. The company cut net debt to $107 million from $121 million a year earlier and halved its finance costs to $14.8 million, it said in January.


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