MORALE remains high among Elders staff despite the impending sale of its rural services division.This was today's claim by chairman John Ballard at a surprisingly subdued annual general meeting in Adelaide.
Mr Ballard took few questions from the floor although the shareholders who did comment said they realised there was little point because the damage had already been done.
One shareholder said Elders staff must be wondering if they were going to keep their jobs when the sale went through.
"Today is one of the saddest meetings I have ever been to,'' the shareholder said.
"That a proud company has been reduced to what it is today is very sad.''
Mr Ballard said it was clear the spirit in the Elders brand was "alive and well''.
"Whoever may own the company will have a staff with pride.''
Elders has announced about 30 suitors are interested in their most profitable division, half Australian and the other half international.
The sale process will speed up next month with the completion of sale documents to be distributed to the prospective buyers.
Elders managing director Malcolm Jackman also said morale was high.
He said the turnover of staff was at its lowest level for four years.
"People in Elders are alive and kicking,'' Mr Jackman said.
Elders Rural Services Group general manager David Goodfellow said there was "some anxiety out in the network'' about who the new owner of rural services might turn out to be.
"There is also some excitement about the opportunity to re-capitalise our business.''
Elders shares are currently trading at 11.5 cents, having traded at $23.20 in early 2008.
The annual meeting was told it was Elders foray into forestry which had caused the problems.
"It was a lousy industry we should never have been in,'' Mr Ballard said.