The godfather of British turkey firms, Bernard Matthews, expressed a desire to gobble up the 60% stake on offer from New Zealand’s largest listed meat producer Richmond yesterday. Coming hard on the heels of the interest expressed by Dunedin-based PPCS for the stake, industry watchers took ringside seats for what could prove an exciting share market battle.

Matthews’ NZ subsidiary, Invercargill-based North Meats, has filed a restricted transfer notice that nominates a price range of between NZ$2.70 and NZ$3.24 per share for Richmond. The figures match those offered by PPCS in an earlier notice, but as it is only able to stand in the market from 6 June, North Meats is already behind chasing PPCS’ tail for the stake.

PPCS has long sought a controlling stake in the Hawkes Bay-based firm meanwhile, but faces several problems in achieving its intention, expressed last week, to acquire 60%. Last year, Richmond directors accused the company of breaching rules in acquiring shares and forced PPCS to divest its 36% stake.

Earlier this month it had built up a 16.75% stake, with help from NZ’s richest farmer, Peter Spencer, and a 10% tranche, but Richmond executives slated the company’s intention to increase the stake further. A sub-committee of three independent directors attempted to block the buy by claiming that PPCS should observe a 15 working days pause because it had access to price sensitive information.

PPCS was cleared by the Stock Exchange’s market surveillance panel yesterday however, and will be able to proceed from tomorrow.

As well as competition from Bernard Matthews however, the Commerce Commission expressed its intention yesterday to investigate PPCS’ proposal on Richmond, after concerns were raised over the potential dominance of PPCS in domestic venison processing.

Two deer farmers from Hawkes Bay have also expressed competition concerns to The Commerce Commission over PPCS’ potential to dominate deer processing. They are backed by lawyer Peter Ratner, who has also acted for the company that fought off PPCS’ previous bid for Richmond.