STAFF at troubled farm business Ceres Agricultural Company have been told to expect significant job losses after the company was placed in voluntary administration with advisory group Grant Thornton.
In an internal memo sent to all staff from owner Garrick Hawkins on Thursday, staff were told the current business was unsustainable and Ceres would be closed.
It is understood meetings are being held with staff this morning.
According to its website, Ceres Agricultural Company manages 30,000 hectares of grazing and cropping land in the central tablelands and north-west slopes of NSW.
The 15 properties operated by Ceres include: Ballyroe and Mayfield at Oberon; Gunyerwarildi, Postmans, Brentwood, Lava Downs and Inverness at Warialda; and Brudle Park and Oaklands at Moree.
The operation includes the 7000-head Gunyerwarildi feedlot at Warialda.
Mr Hawkins' letter says Ceres has agreed to terms on selling its western aggregation and negotiations were well advanced to the sale of the eastern aggregation.
I will not go into details as to why the results were so disappointing but suffice it to say that the 100 year drought we have experienced over recent times has not helped.- Garrick Hawkins, Ceres Agricultural Company
Ballyroe and Mayfield and will not be sold. The southern business would be conducted by a new entity, which would buy all of the relevant Ceres assets, the letter reads.
The business had been listed with CBRE carrying a price tag of about $200 million.
Mr Hawkins said staff could expect to receive "full wage and other entitlements".
The letter makes no reference to contractors.
"It is with a heavy heart that I have taken this action but there was no practical choice given the performance of Ceres," Mr Hawkins writes.
"Over its life my family has invested many tens of millions of dollars into the business, including directly and indirectly approximately $20 million over the past 18 months. Clearly this is unsustainable.
"I will not go into details as to why the results were so disappointing but suffice it to say that the 100 year drought we have experienced over recent times has not helped."
Mr Hawkins wrote that he is unable to meet with staff personally, as he was overseas. However, he was able to be contacted by telephone.
Ceres Agricultural Company was formed in 2012 with the merging of assets of Pegela Pastoral Company and Singapore-based Duxton Asset Management. Pegela, established in 2003 by former stockbroker Garrick Hawkins.
Additional comment has been sought from Ceres Agricultural Company.
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