Canadians buy again: PSP gets orchards, and water worth $490m

PSP buys Olam almond orchards and water in lease-back deal

Agribusiness
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Webster buyer, PSP Investments, also buying orchards and water for 12,000ha of northern Victorian almonds.

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Canada's big spending Public Sector Pension Investment Board has bought into another Australian nut orchard venture, also paying $490 million for 89,085 megalitres of high security water in the lower Murray Darling Basin.

PSP Investments, one of Canada's largest pension investment managers, has bought the water from almond grower and processor Olam International, plus 12,000 hectares of Victorian almond orchards currently leased by Olam Orchards Australia.

The orchards and associated permanent water rights will continue to be leased by Olam for 25 years as part of a new, tiered revenue sharing arrangement with PSP.

The almond plantations were originally developed by Timbercorp in northern Victoria, but have been sold to PSP by Swiss-based private equity group, Schroder Adveq.

Last year Adveq listed 20,000ha of almond trees and related assets managed by Olam for sale in the Robinvale area.

No details have been released about the price PSP paid for the land.

Revenue sharing deal

Olam will pay PSP a share of revenue from the almond crop as part of its new arrangement, which includes an option to renew the lease and revenue sharing deal until 2069.

It is complementary to our existing permanent crop investments around the world and represents a unique avenue to add scale, particularly in Australia, - Marc Drouin, PSP Investments

The Foreign Investment Review Board has already approved the acquisition.

PSP is also currently in the throes of taking full control of the $850 million NSW, South Australian and Tasmanian walnut and broadacre cropping and grazing business, Webster.

Full details of its $2 a share offer for the remaining 80.9 per cent of Webster not already owned by PSP go out to shareholders in two weeks for a vote in early February.

Other PSP interests

PSP is already the majority owner of northern NSW and southern Queensland pecan nut growing and processing business, Stahmann Farms.

Stahmann, whose management teamed up with PSP in in 2017, produces and packs most of Australia's pecan crop and is a major macadamia processor.

Early this year PSP also bought the 48,700ha southern NSW grain cropping and logistics and piggery business, BFB based at Temora, reportedly for $208m.

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Last year it became a joint venture partner in 12,500ha of southern NSW dryland cropping country in the Young, Temora and West Wyalong districts as part of the Daybreak Cropping venture - a national broadacre cropping business formed in 2016 with local investment manager, Warakirri Asset Management .

PSP managing director and natural resources head, Marc Drouin, said the latest Olam deal was consistent with the pension fund's strategy to partner with best-in-class operators who took a long-term view.

What is PSP?

PSP Investments was focused on high-quality agricultural assets globally.

The 20-year-old PSP has about $168 billion in net assets under management around the world, invested on behalf of employees with Canada's federal public service, armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"It is also quite complementary to our existing permanent crop investments around the world and represents a unique avenue to add scale, particularly in Australia," Mr Drouin said.

The Olam transaction was expected to wrap up this month.

I am confident the partnership will help lead the industry in sustainable agricultural practices, and protect critical natural resources, such as water - Ashok Krishen, Olam International

Olam expected to book a one-time pre-tax capital gain of about $311m from the water sale.

Edible nuts, managing director, Ashok Krishen, the new arrangement was consistent with the Singaporean food processing company's "asset-light approach to tree crop production".

Sustainable farmers

"I am confident the PSP Investments partnership will help lead the industry in sustainable farming and agricultural practices, and protect critical natural resources, such as water in Australia," he said.

The water rights bought by PSP are expected to be deployed only on the Olam almond plantings, not other irrigated interests owned by PSP.

Meanwhile, Olam has confirmed it is also in discussions about divesting and restructuring other assets and businesses in line with its strategic plan.

Olam's food, ingredients, feed and fibre activities span 60 countries and include farming, processing and distribution operations, as well as a sourcing network involving 4.8 million farmers.

Olam interests in Australia include cotton marketer and processor, Queensland Cotton.

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