LITHUANIA – Fonterra, New Zealand’s dairy company, has invested US$8.26 million in Lithuanian dairy producer Rokiskio Suris, where it has bought more than 3.58 million shares.

The investment had been under negotiation for a while, with Rokiskio issuing statement that Fonterra would recover any losses if it withdrew from the planned share issue by November.

The warning had been prompted by disputes between the existing shareholders and some unsettled lawsuits.

The announcement came as Fonterra’s foodservice business, Anchor Food Professionals, had announced it had become New Zealand’s sixth biggest export business with more than US$1.44 billion in annual revenue over the past year.

Fonterra chief operating officer for consumer and foodservice, Lukas Paravacini, said the achievement is the result of changing lifestyles by consumers and a new way of working, which is about partnering with customers to help their businesses succeed in a rapidly growing industry.

The new shares amount to around 5.5% of North Eastern Lithuania-based Rokiskio, valuing the dairy at almost US$168 million.

The company makes a range of Rokiskio-branded hard and semi-hard cheese, as well as mozzarella, butter and dairy ingredients including milk powder and dried whey protein concentrate.

Fonterra employs 22,000 people – including 10,500 farmer-owners – with annual turnover of US$15.52 billion in 2016.

Fonterra’s full-year revenues were up 12% due to high-value consumer products, with sales of its advanced ingredients segment up 9% year-on-year.

In September, the co-operative confirmed it had lodged a bid for Australia’s largest dairy processor, Murray Goulburn, joining a growing list of names believed to be interested in a move for the struggling dairy business.