Historic NSW sheep property, “Raby”, at Warren, which will be split into four blocks following its sale last week by Hassad Australia.
South Australian aggregations “Glendale” near Clare, and “Ungarra” on the Eyre Peninsula have also been sold following a relatively short period in Hassad’s portfolio.
The blue ribbon 9782-hectare “Raby”, which dates back prominently in pastoral history to well before its 1898 registration as an influential Merino stud, was bought by four neighbours and nearby landholders.
One of the buyers takes about half the grazing, irrigation and dryland farming property, including its 130-year-old, seven bedroom colonial-style homestead and surrounding outbuildings.
The various purchasers intend integrating their subdivisions into current operations growing cotton, grain, sheep and cattle.
The Raby deal alone involved 11 different contracts for land and irrigation water titles attached to 1654 megalitres of general security water from the Macquarie River, Crooked and Duck creeks, plus 126Ml of supplementary water licences.
A third 2098ha SA property aggregation at Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula has not yet sold, despite recent negotiations, although Elders Real Estate expects it to have new owners by the new year.
We may continue acquiring some `bolt on’ property in future
A rain-delayed harvest in the region has been blamed for contributing to the drawn out settlement.
All four property aggregations went on the market in August with expectations of a total price value about $80 million.
No specific buyer details have been released by the Qatari state-owned Hassad, however in SA’s mid-north the sale price for “Glendale’s” 12 semi-contigious holdings was $16.2m, according to agents, CBRE.
Hassad began amassing a 300,000ha Australian portfolio in 2010 as part of a focus on grain and Awassi meat sheep production.
Its purchase of “Kaladbro” in Victoria was followed by “Raby” in late 2010.
The three SA holdings (totalling 10,300ha), were bought in early 2014, with plans to expand them into larger cropping hubs.
Hassad is now retreating from SA completely, having been unable to expand its bases in the tightly-held surrounding districts.
The latest divestments follow the earlier sales of “Kaladbro”, and “Clover Downs” in Queensland in late 2016 and early 2017 respectively, as part of a re-calibrating of Hassad’s local investment strategy away from Awassi sheep to centre on lamb and grain marketing and farming.
It still has nine aggregations in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.
“We may continue acquiring some `bolt on’ property in future to take advantage of labour and machinery efficiency opportunities if the right adjoining or nearby holdings become available,” said chief executive officer, John McKillop.
“But we don’t intend to establish any new farming hubs.
“The new Hassad Australia leadership is redirecting the business away from pure primary production to a strategic blend of both farming and investments across the lamb and grain supply chains.”
So far this year Hassad has exported about 600,000 lamb carcases to the Middle East, of which about 5000 originated from its own properties.
While it has given consideration to buying into a meat processing venture, Mr McKillop said current priorities were simply to buy processed meat for export.
“We don’t see having an interest in processing as an imperative,” he said.
A similar grain buying division had been established with a focus on supplying overseas buyers, including the tiny, oil-rich Qatari state’s market needs.
Hassad intends to remain a “substantial player in the Australian grain and sheep sector” currently with about 65,000ha of cropping country and 85,000 ewes to be joined in 2018.
The operation is considered an integral part of Hassad Food Company’s broader vision to be a global food provider by growing, processing and supplying high quality food under a brand of excellence.
“The property sales will allow us to do that and to further diversify and strengthen our Australian operations,” Mr McKillop said.
The sale of “Raby” was handled by Phil Rourke and Trevor Wilson from Landmark Harcourts, “Ungarra” by Tom Russo and Darryn Johnston from Elders, while Danny Thomas and Phil Schell from CBRE were responsible for the “Glendale” sale.
Pleasing sale response
Elders real estate general manager, Tom Russo, noted the “Ungarra” sale outcome in SA was pleasing for Hassad and the local farming community, reflecting strong demand for quality agricultural holdings in Australia.
It generated “an extraordinary level of interest from both corporate farmers and private operators”.
CBRE’s Phil Schell said “Glendale” also received interest from all market segments, including SA and interstate farming families exploring geographic diversity, and institutional groups such as foreign investment funds.
Landmark Harcourts’ Mr Rourke said Raby Station had attracted more than 60 enquires, 17 inspections and 12 contracts were issued.
Although far smaller in size than the original pioneering station settlement, and frequently re-shaped over the years by land resumptions and additional land purchases, “Raby” has had relatively few owners since the 1800s.
Hassad, which expanded the holding with the purchase of a portion of “The Overflow”, bought the then 8525ha “Raby” from the Sydney-based Muir automotive dealership family.
The Muirs owned it for 26 years, running up to 5000 Merino ewes and 600 Hereford cows, plus replacements.
The sheep component included the Raby Merino stud, established on Peppin bloodlines by Norman Gatenby, who also owned Jemalong Station at Forbes.
In 1927 N.A. Gatenby sold to the London-based Australian Estates land and agency company, under whose ownership the stud reached its peak, selling up to 1200 rams a year.
Australian Estates was absorbed into CSR in the 1970s, then bought by Leslie Muir in 1982.