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Macquarie buys Buntine assets

by Jon Condon, 24 May 2011

Macquarie Pastoral Fund’s Paraway Pastoral Co is understood to have completed a deal to purchase a major portfolio of northern properties owned by Northern Territory cattle entrepreneur, Sterling Buntine.

Solid sources have suggested the assets involved include the Kimberley properties Lissadell, 2000sq km south of Kununurra; Bedford Downs, Mr Buntine’s former headquarters near Halls Creek; and Lansdowne, also in the Kimberley. Another possible inclusion is live export depot Maryfield, near Larrimah in the Top End. It is unclear whether other Baldy Bay properties are involved in the deal, but Springvale in Central Queensland and Tanumbirini on the Barkly have also been mentioned as potential targets.

Following the mooted sale of Bedford Downs, it is understood Mr Buntine will shift his headquarters to Alroy, 4232sq km on the southern end of the Barkly Tableland east of Tennant Creek, which he bought for $70 million in 2008 from cattle baron, Peter Sherwin. Alroy still ranks as the most expensive single property purchase in Australian history.

Mr Buntine’s Baldy Bay Pty Ltd has sold down a number of pastoral assets over the past 18 months as part of a debt reduction program. Last week, he was unsuccessful in attracting a bid for his 5000sq km NT holding, Tanumbirini, passed in on a vendor’s bid of $30m. Earlier properties to sell included Inverness, Blackall for $14m; Amburla, near Alice Springs, sold recently for $6m; and Tobermorey and Linda Downs west of Boulia, $17.5m.

Macquarie Pastoral Fund’s trading vehicle Paraway Pastoral has accumulated more than three million hectares of country across Eastern and Northern Australia since early 2009, in a rare beef/sheep dual species play. The company already controls about 170,000 cattle on its northern operations, built around the core of the old Georgina Pastoral Co assets and former AA Co holdings, Clonagh, Kalmeta and Gregory Downs.

A formal announcement about the Paraway move on the Baldy Bay assets is likely to be still some days away, having been held up by ‘complex industry matters’, a source close to the sale said. One estimate suggested the combined sale might be worth around $50m.

Neither Sterling Buntine nor Macquarie Pastoral Fund returned Beef Central’s calls last night. More details as they come to hand.

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