Fonterra milk truck

Fonterra has reported half-year losses of NZ$348m (£177m)

The boss of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra has resigned as the company warned of a massive profits loss.

Theo Spierings, who has led Fonterra as CEO for the past seven years, will leave his role later this year, the company announced today, as it reported half-year losses of NZ$348m (£177m) after writing down its investment in Chinese infant formula manufacturer Beingmate by NZ$405m (£206m).

However, Fonterra was quick to rule out any link with between its results and Spierings departure, which it insisted was “part of a planned CEO succession process” that had begun last year.

The company’s board, which is already shortlisting candidates after launching an international search for potential replacements in November, was planning to announce Spiering’s move in April but brought the announcement forward to “avoid speculation”, said Fonterra chairman John Wilson.

“It is not yet clear exactly when any appointment for Theo’s replacement will be made, but it is absolutely clear that Theo will continue in the meantime to drive the co-operative’s strategy and business, with special emphasis on China,” Wilson added.

Spierings, who admitted the company’s Beingmate investment had “underperformed” but insisted there was huge opportunity for growth in China, said the “time was right” for the co-operative to have a change in leadership to lead it through its next phase.

“It is also the right time for me personally. I look forward to new challenges, but right now my focus is on Fonterra. That will be the case until I finish with the co-operative,” he added.