Australian dairy co-op Murray Goulburn has confirmed it is looking at raising capital from external investors to tap funds for growth.

Murray Goulburn today (22 November) told its farmer-shareholders it was studying a similar model to that implemented at Fonterra.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand dairy giant launched a scheme called Trading Among Farmers, which kept the company in the hands of the co-op's members but allowed the business to access investment from outside the company.

Murray Goulburn said the establishment of a listed unit trust on the Australian stock exchange was "considered logical and appropriate". The move would allow the company access to the capital it needed for growth, while maintaining supplier control, it said.

However, the co-op insisted the move was not linked to its pursuit of fellow Australian processor Warranambool Cheese and Butter Factory. Muuray Goulburn is in a three-way tussle for WCB with another Australian dairy, Bega Cheese, and Canadian dairy group Saputo.

"Recent media reports suggesting that Murray Goulburn’s plans to seek an external capital raising facility to fund its bid for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter are incorrect. The WCB bid, which is comfortably funded from Murray Goulburn’s existing banking syndicate, and the proposed new capital structure are separate," Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy said. The co-op, he said, had been reviewing its capital structure since September.

Murray Goulburn will now discuss its plans with farmers over the next three months. It will then work on more detailed plans that will be presented to suppliers in March.

Tracy said: "I also want to stress that what we are proposing today is not a fait accompli. After today's meeting, our next step will be to visit all supplier regions to consult directly with you on the recommended capital structure and why we believe it is the right way forward for MG."