Rural property market rebounds and more

Australian rural property market rebounds and more

Property News
BOOM TIMES: Values for cattle country have gone from strength to strength, eclipsing the 2008-09 boom, and overcoming the 2013 'year of the receiver'.

BOOM TIMES: Values for cattle country have gone from strength to strength, eclipsing the 2008-09 boom, and overcoming the 2013 'year of the receiver'.

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Values for cattle country have gone from strength to strength, eclipsing the 2008-09 boom.

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RURAL property has gone full circle and then some, with the market again booming, making a better than full recovery following a market crash in the early part of the decade.

That crash - highlighted by valuer Herron Todd White branding of 2013 as the 'year of the receiver' - occurred when highly-geared cattle enterprises were knocked for six after the then Gillard government imposed a catastrophic six month ban on the export of live cattle to Indonesia in 2011.

As northern cattle bred for live export markets poured into southern markets, beef prices began to tumble, limiting the ability of producers to service debt and forcing lenders to take action.

The turn-around came in 2014, with the reopening on the Indonesian market and massive global demand for beef sending cattle prices skyrocketing to unprecedented levels.

MAJOR SALES

High profile sales during the past decade included S.Kidman and Co, which sold for $385 million to mining magnate Gina Rinehart and Chinese partner, Shanghai CRED in December 2016.

The Kidman leases cover some 101,000 square kilometres across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. However, the sale excluded Anna Creek and The Peake stations because of the location of strategic defence facilities.

Combined with its other farming operations, the purchase made the Hancock company one of the top three beef producers in Australia, with a herd of about 300,000 cattle.

Macquarie Agriculture, an agricultural fund managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, announced it had bought into the major irrigation farm Cubbie Station at Dirranbandi in August 2019.

Chinese textile company Shandong Ruyi bought an 80pc stake in the 22,000ha irrigation farm in 2012 for an estimated $240 million, but on FIRB instruction it reduced its ownership to 51pc.

Macquarie had been in talks with the Cubbie Station ownership for two years after it was introduced to the deal by Colliers International head of agribusiness Rawdon Briggs.

Consolidated Pastoral Company announced in March 2018 it was selling its 16-property portfolio covering 5.5 million hectares.

UK private equity firm, Terra Firma, which bought CPC in 2009, said the company had an asset base worth about $880.5m, including some 400,000 cattle, making it Australia's largest privately-owned cattle enterprise. CPC also had an 80pc stake in two feedlots in Indonesia, with capacity to handle about 36,000 cattle.

CPC sold a number of 'non core' properties including Nockatunga for a reported $50m and Ucharonidge (245,550ha/19,870 cattle) for $30m to Malcolm Harris.

Sterling Buntine's Baldy Bay company paid a reported $20m for 80,000ha Mimong at Kynuna, and bought the 23,000ha central Queensland property Comely Station.

Clean Agriculture and International Tourism bought CPC's NT leases Auvergne and Newry Stations and Argyle Downs Station in WA. The 740,000ha cluster was sold with 52,000 cattle.

In October 2019, it was announced CPC was selling its remaining nine Australian cattle stations with 300,000 cattle and two Indonesian feedlots to its management, including chief executive officer Troy Setter, in a deal estimated to be worth about $600m.

In May 2016, the Queensland Investment Corporation took an 80pc stake in the Northern Australian Pastoral Company in a deal estimated to be worth more than $300m. NAPCo prides itself on being one of Australia's oldest companies, running more than 175,000 cattle on 5.8 million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory. The Foster family retained a 20pc interest in the company, which was established in 1877.

Chinese investors were also active during the decade, including Chinese ball bearing manufacturer Xingfa Ma, who bought the 705,700ha Gulf properties Wollogorang and Wentworth for $47m in 2015. That country is back on the market following significant improvements.

Equity driven

Colliers International head of agribusiness Rawdon Briggs said the sustained growth in the market was being driven by equity rather than debt as occurred 10 years ago.

However, Mr Briggs said the season would be a decisive factor in the market.

"If there is a significant break in the weather, there is no reason to think there will be a contraction in values, particularly in beef," Mr Briggs said.

"But the upside for other commodities is more reserved, particularly for grain, because global prices are so competitive and freight rates and the price of oil is relatively low."

Mr Briggs said there was still pent-up demand from investors looking to spend $10m to $35m for rural property.

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