Forestry manager teams with Canadians to buy Lawsons Grains

Forestry manager teams with Canadians to buy Lawsons Grains

Grain
Harvest on Macquarie Group cropping business Lawson Grains' property Borambil near Balldale in southern NSW.

Harvest on Macquarie Group cropping business Lawson Grains' property Borambil near Balldale in southern NSW.

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One of Australia's biggest corporate grain growers, Lawsons Grains, has sold to an Australian forestry manager back by a Canadian super fund.

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One of Australia's biggest corporate grain growers, Lawsons Grains, has sold to an Australian forestry manager back by a Canadian super fund.

Macquarie Asset Management said it had sold Lawson Grains to New Forests and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo).

Lawson Grains will remain Australian-managed under its ownership.

Changing hands was 103,000ha and related assets in Western Australia and NSW.

A sale price was not disclosed but earlier estimates anticipated it would go for about $550 million or more.

The deal will need approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Lawson Grains is one of Australia's largest grains and oilseeds businesses, producing over 200,000 tonnes per year of wheat, barley, canola and pulses.

Under the transaction there will be no significant changes to the Lawson Grains management team in its Albury headquarters or to current on-farm teams.

Headquartered in Sydney, New Forests is a global forestry investment manager offering high-impact strategies in sustainable forestry and related sectors.

Canada's Public Sector Pension Investment Board has been involved in some significant purchases in the Riverina in recent weeks.

Since its inception in 2005, New Forests has earned a reputation for its value-adding approach to the assets it owns and manages and has a track record of sustainably managing forestry assets in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the United States.

New Forests senior managing director Mark Rogers said Lawson Grains was a high quality and diversified agricultural business with an experienced management team.

"We look forward to working with the management team to continue to build the business and add value," Mr Rogers said.

"New Forests will bring its sustainability approach to Lawson Grains, managing for sustainable agricultural production and natural climate solutions including soil carbon and native revegetation and focusing on community engagement.

"This investment is a natural extension to New Forests' landscape management approach, ensuring integrated production across Australia's varied landscape, and backed by our valued client AIMCo."

Macquarie Asset Management head of agriculture, Liz O'Leary said: "We are delighted to have reached an agreement for the sale of Lawson Grains, which we are proud to have built on behalf of our investors over the past 10 years.

"This transaction demonstrates the natural evolution of agriculture as an increasingly mature and attractive alternative investment class.

"It provides a vote of confidence for investors regarding the opportunity to invest in agriculture businesses and ultimately realise the investments in the same way they are used to doing in other asset classes.

"Realising this successful investment will enable our business to look ahead to the next opportunity."

Macquarie Asset Management still runs the Paraway Pastoral Company and Viridis Ag operating companies.

AIMCo is one of Canada's leading institutional investors, with significant investment experience in real assets, including over 10 years of investing with New Forests in sustainable forestry and carbon markets in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

AIMCo's major investment in Australia with New Forests, the Forestry Investment Trust, includes approximately 9000 hectares of canola and wheat crops in Western Australia.

AIMCo senior vice president Ben Hawkins (head of infrastructure and renewable resources) said his company had a long history of making sustainable investments into Australia on behalf of its clients.

"The opportunity to acquire Lawson Grains, a fully integrated grains business built on quality assets, people and systems presents an attractive opportunity for AIMCo's Renewable Resource portfolio to add a significant core asset.

"We look forward to continuing the growth of the business through our longstanding partnership with New Forests, as good stewards of these high-quality agricultural assets."

AIMCo is one of Canada's largest and most diversified institutional investment managers with more than $120 billion of assets under management. AIMCo invests globally on behalf of 32 pension, endowment and government funds in the Province of Alberta.

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