Hot on the heels of Hassad Australia’s record-breaking $70 million “Telopea Downs” sale in western Victoria last month, the Qatari company is poised to offload still more of its farmland in a major deal with Macquarie Group.
The banking group’s Macquarie Agriculture division is buying the last 100,000ha tranche of Hassad’s farmland portfolio for a price tag reportedly nudging $300 million.
Macquarie is already a big agricultural land investor with a diverse 4.5 million hectare spread of cropping, grazing and horticulture assets in Australia and Brazil.
Hassad, part of Qatar’s diverse global sovereign wealth investment portfolio, only entered the Australian farming scene eight years ago.
Investment focus shift
It is now expected to become a part investor in a Macquarie-controlled fund owning and operating the rural holdings it is divesting in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Both parties have declined to say when the sale is due to be official.
Their move is the latest in a surge of high profile corporate property wheeling and dealing in the agricultural space.
Horticulture and broadacre agribusiness, Webster Limited, is selling its 9600ha Bengerang farming assets in North West NSW to a joint venture involving the fast expanding ag player, PSP Investments, for $132.7m.
Canada’s Public Sector Pension fund manager (PSP), is in partnership with current Webster shareholders the Robinson family at Moree.
The sale will need Webster shareholder approval in October.
Mining and beef baroness, Gina Rinehart, last month confirmed Hancock Agriculture’s purchase of the big 17,800ha “Sundown Valley” on NSW’s North West slopes west of Uralla.
The properties are ... adding further growth opportunities and scale benefits for management
Hancock has also bought the 10,000-head capacity Gunnee Feedlot and surrounding farm at Delungra in northern NSW from Sundown Pastoral Company, which complements Hancock’s 2016 purchase of the Maydan Feedlot at Warwick, Queensland.
Hancock’s latest acquisitions will ensure it can further boost its Wagyu beef breeding and growing capacity.
“The properties are conveniently in between our high quality Wagyu breeding properties near Dubbo and Roma, adding further growth opportunities and scale benefits for management,” Mrs Rinehart said.
Despite drought making family farming businesses more careful about buying farmland at the moment, rural property specialists say interest levels remain hot across the board.
Hot property interest
“Family operations don’t normally occupy the $50m to $100m farm investment territory, but we’re seeing family buyers, corporates and overseas parties active with inquiry across the market,” said veteran Sydney-based Ray White Rural principal, Bruce Gunning.
“Now that it’s compulsory to advertise anything worth more than $15m there’s more property coming to the attention of potential local buyers who may not have been as aware of the opportunities before.”
He said regardless of the frustration some farmers may feel about competing for land against cashed-up big players like Macquarie Group, Macquarie’s Lawson Grains business was unquestionably one of Australia’s best run cropping businesses.
Canada’s PSP has been busy on several Australia-New Zealand agribusiness fronts, buying the 12,500ha NSW cropping assets of mining and agribusiness giant, Glencore, in January, after partnering with Warakirri Asset Management under the Daybreak Cropping business banner.
Backed by assets totalling about $140 billion, PSP also took a majority stake in the northern NSW-southern Queensland pecan nut business, Stahmann Farms last year.
Sale proceeds will provide additional funding capacity for our continued investment in a more geographically concentrated portfolio
Its latest Bengerang buy includes an irrigated aggregation at Garah, north of Moree, and the pioneering Bourke district irrigation aggregation, Darling Farms, plus associated water entitlements.
The deal would also see the Robinson’s Australian Food and Fibre business quit its 69m shares in Webster while PSP Investments takes up a 19.15 per cent stake.
PSP will become the 187-year-old Webster agribusiness’ biggest shareholder.
Webster has only owned the Bengerang operations for three years, but has opted to offload its northern assets to focus on its core horticultural, agricultural and grazing operations in South West NSW, South Australia and Tasmania.
Chairman, Chris Corrigan, said while Webster’s irrigated crop area would shrink from 24,500ha to 15,000ha, development work at its “Kooba” property at Darlington Point and Hay should rebuild its irrigation area to 20,000ha next year.
“Sale proceeds will provide additional funding capacity for our continued investment in a more geographically concentrated portfolio,” he said.
What’s Hassad selling?
Meanwhile, Macquarie Group’s Hassad acquisition is shaping up as Australia’s biggest farmland deal since the 2016 sale of S. Kidman and Company to Gina Rinehart and her joint venture partner Shanghai Cred.
Macquarie will pick up the 2100ha Cummins aggregation on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, which was previously offered by Hassad last year when it sold “Glendale” and “Ungarra” in SA and the famed Raby Station in Central West NSW.
Other acquisition spoils to be split between Macquarie’s Paraway Pastoral and Lawson Grains businesses include NSW holdings “Old Bundemar” (22,500ha) at Trangie; “Urawilkie” (26,000ha), Coonamble; “Gindurra” (8516ha), Canowindra; “Englefield Plains” (7448ha), Junee; Victoria’s Barton Station (8244ha), Moyston, and WA grain properties, “Amarinya” (14,672ha), Jerramungup; “Bindana Downs” (8483ha), Bindi Bindi, and “Yupiri” (8340ha), Esperance.
In August Hassad settled on the sale of its 11-property “Telopea Downs” aggregation on the Victoria-SA border to the family-owned company A.J. and P.A. McBride, considered to be the most expensive farm transaction ever made in Victoria.
The walk-in walk-out deal, negotiated through Elders, included 25,000 ewes plus 30,000 lambs, 600 Angus cows and 1000 trade cattle, and about 10,000 hectares under crop.
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