Hall of Shame

Consumer Staples

Freedom Foods Group Ltd (FNP AU)

Year: 2020

Freedom Foods Group Limited, an Australian Company, is engaged in sourcing, manufacturing, sale, marketing and distribution of cereal and snacks; sourcing, manufacturing, selling, marketing and distributing plant and dairy based beverages; selling, marketing and distributing canned seafood, and investment in dairy farming operations. The Company operates through five segments: Freedom Foods, which includes cereal, snacks and branded plant-based beverages; Pactum, which offers a range of ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) food and beverage products, including liquid stocks, soy, rice, almond and dairy milk beverages; Pactum Dairy Group, which offers a range of UHT dairy milk beverage products; Specialty Seafood, which offers a range of canned seafood, such as sardines, salmon and specialty seafood, and Freedom Foods North America, which offers a range of products for consumers, including allergen free, low sugar, or salt, or fortified or functional.

The company was incorporated in July 1984 in New South Wales. In 1985, the group was listed on the ASX as Australian Natural Foods Holdings Limited.

In November 1999, the group changed its name from Australian Natural Foods Holdings Limited to So Natural Foods Australia Limited.

In October 2007, it changed its name again to Freedom Nutritional Products Limited after they had a joint venture agreement with A2 Corporation Limited which granted Freedom production and sale right of A2 milk products in Australia and Japan.

In December 2010 It changed its name to Freedom Foods Group Limited.

March 17, 2020 In a trading update the company announced that the business was experiencing a surge in demand for their dairy, plant, cereals and snacks products and that there was no disruption to their supply chains due to Covid-19.

April 21, 2020 In another trading update the company revealed that it has experienced growth above plan in the Retail Grocery channel during the pandemic.  However, it said, that as a prudent measure, it would defer its previously announced interim dividend payment to a yet to be determined date.

May 29, 2020 A trading update revealed various impacts from the pandemic, both positive and negative, across its business. The Company also announced it had decided to cancel the interim dividend and did not anticipate paying a full year dividend.  It announced announcing a A$25m inventory write down and it had also renegotiated banking facilities with HSBC and NAB and extended liquidity by A$100m.

June 23, 2020 Group CFO and Company Secretary Campbell Nicholas resigned.  Director Trevor Allen stepped in as Company Secretary.

June 25, 2020 Freedom Foods requested a halt in trading of its shares for 14 days and issued a corporate update.  There were a number of concerning issues including:

  • The estimated Inventory writedown was increased from A$25M to A$60M with a possible further increase to be confirmed in the audit of the YE financials,
  • Bad debt estimate increased from A$4M to $14M,
  • A$5.9M in employee options that had not been expensed, would need to be brought to account,
  • Prior years Financials may be affected by the above,
  • 41 staff made redundant
  • The company had engaged law firm Ashurst and PWC to conduct an investigation.

June 30, 2020 The Company announced the resignation of Rory Macleod as Managing Director and Chief Executive of the Company.

July 8, 2020 The trading suspension period was increased to six months; i.e. end of October 2020.  The company said this was to
     - give it time to complete the investigation,
     - complete its 2020 accounts and any impact on prior year financials, 
     - find a new permanent CEO and CFO,
     - ensure financial flexibility to support the business going forward.

July 13, 2020 Company Secretary Trevor Allen resigned as Company Secretary.  He remained on as non-executive director.  Allen was replaced on an interim basis by Scott Standen until the October 30.

Freedom Foods: Trading Update, 17 Mar 2020
Freedom Foods: Trading Update, 21 Apr 2020
Freedom Foods: COVID19 - Trading Update, 29 May 2020
Freedom Foods: Corporate Update, 25 Jun 2020
Consultancy.com.au: PwC and Ashurst looking into misconduct at Freedom Foods, 29 Jun 2020
Kalkinemedia: Time for Distressed Investors to Look at Freedom Foods,  29 Jun 2020
Freedom Foods: Management Update, 30 Jun 2020
Freedom Foods: Update On Suspension, 8 Jul 2020
AFR: Freedom Foods suspended until October 30, 8 Jul 2020
Freedom Foods: Resignation Company Secretary, 13 Jul 2020
Freedom Foods: Interim Report - HY 2020 (Dec. 2019)
Freedom Foods: Annual Report - YE Jun. 2019