Among the top 10 dairy producers in the world, the $16-billion multinational Saputo sells its milk, cheese, yogurt and other goods under dozens of different brand names around the globe. The Saputo family likes to think big: The company is the largest cheese maker in Canada, third largest in both the U.S. and Argentina, and fourth in Australia. Its stock soared for most of last year, climbing more than 50% and taking the family fortune to new heights. But since an abrupt drop in November 2016, when reports emerged that the company was issuing new shares at a below-market valuation, the company has struggled to rebound. Saputo closed two of its Canadian plants in 2016—one in Sydney, N.S., the other in Princeville, Que.—a third, in Ottawa, is set to be shut down at the end of 2017. Its shares declined 9% in 2017 and 5.9% year over year, though revenues were still up 9% as of August. Despite a dicey year punctuated with uncertainty around NAFTA renegotiations, the Saputo family business appears to be doing just fine.
Giuseppe Saputo founded the company in Montreal in 1954, using $500 in startup capital and a single bicycle to make deliveries. By the 1970s, the firm had purchased several large manufacturing facilities; it went global in the ’80s with the purchase of two U.S. plants. Saputo’s growth strategy stresses patience: CEO Lino Saputo Jr. waited 12 years for the opportunity to snap up one of the biggest dairy operations in Australia, in 2014.
Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017