THE Hong Kong based investors who recently took a 51 percent stake in northern NSW export beef processor, Bindaree Beef have plans to further develop their Western Australian grazing property investments, purchased in April last year.
Archstone Investments, controlled by wealthy Hong Kong based Australian citizens, the Hui family, is a Beijing-based investment group with listed property trust interests in China and Hong Kong. Its portfolio also spans the food, agriculture, medical and technology industries.
Earlier this month Beef Central revealed that Archstone had agreed to terms with Bindaree’s McDonald family to purchase 51pc of the processing business.
Seventeen months earlier, Archstone bought Western Australia’s one million hectare SAWA grazing property aggregation, for a figure understood to have been close to the asking price of $100 million. The deal, covering four extensive properties in the Kimberley region, was probably Western Australia’s biggest-ever pastoral property transaction, Beef Central’s research at the time suggested.
There appears to be no strategic supply chain link between the northern pastoral assets, now run under the business name Consolidated Australian Pastoral Holdings – Archstone’s first major Australian agricultural investment – and the Bindaree business. The two are likely to be managed independently.
Regarded as the largest parcel of northern grazing land to publicly go on the market since the S.Kidman empire was listed in April 2015, SAWA comprised a little over one million hectares of breeding and backgrounding country stretching from Broome to Halls Creek.
The portfolio, put to market through Tanami Rural by Nico Botha and family, comprised four extensive Kimberley cattle properties: Moola Bulla, near Halls Creek (395,000ha); Mt Amhurst, near Halls Creek (260,000ha); Beefwood Park, near Fitzroy Crossing (206,000ha); and Shamrock, near Broome (178,000ha), plus around 47,000 cattle.
The Hui family is led by Hui Mang Mau, whose primary business interests are in property development in Asia. He was ranked third in the 2015 BRW Australian Rich List, with a fortune worth A$6.89 billion. The Hui family controls large listed property businesses on the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges, and has signalled its intention to make further acquisitions in Australian cattle production.
‘Significant’ irrigation plans
CAPH director Dale Champion told ABC radio this morning that there were many factors that attracted Archstone to the SAWA aggregation.
“There is significant opportunity to further develop these properties,” he said.
Mr Champion confirmed the group was moving forward with ‘significant’ plans to create an irrigation precinct at Shamrock Station 150km south of Broome with access to the La Grange aquifer.
The group was aiming to develop a ‘stand and graze’ operation using centre pivots, but he would not disclose how large the development would be.
“It’s a considerable investment that we’re taking very seriously.”
Another drawcard was that Shamrock Station sat below the north’s Bluetongue Zone, which provided flexibility for exporting cattle to China, which the company sees as a market that will open up in years to come.
“We see Shamrock as a step that will add value not only to our aggregation of stations, but potentially offer opportunity to the region because of its location outside of the Bluetongue Zone,” Mr Champion told ABC.
“If we can lift the weight and therefore the value of every head produced in our aggregation, then for us that’s a better return on investment and Shamrock would be integral to adding that finish and scale to the volumes we’re talking about.”
The group hoped to start developing Shamrock as soon as possible and was progressing well with various government assessments and surveys.
He said CAPH saw the eastern states as primarily focused on boxed beef, with the Kimberley properties more aligned to live export.
“But at the end of the day, both offer opportunities from Archstone’s perspective to continue to invest in the industry. They are both long-term investments and there’s a view to develop both projects.”
Asked by ABC if the company was looking to buy more stations in northern Australia, Mr Champion said the group would “consider suitable opportunities as they arise, but they need to make sense both strategically and commercially.”
In a brief statement to ABC, Archstone’s David Xie said his company felt that the Australian beef industry as a whole afforded long-term opportunities, and the company’s ongoing investments reflected that view.
“In regards to the Kimberley region, we believe it provides an excellent opportunity for development and have been pleased to be able to work with numerous local service providers and suppliers as we progress these aspirations,” he said.