Property

China’s Rifa sells last Australian grazing asset, Cooplacurrilpa, for $35m bare

Property editor Linda Rowley, 30/11/2021

Rifa bought the 22,550ha Cooplacurripa Station, between Gloucester and Nowendoc in northern NSW, with 8000 head of cattle for $32m in 2015.

RIFA Salutary has offloaded the last of its Australian grazing assets – the renowned large-scale cattle breeding property Cooplacurripa Station to Phillip and Vanessa Bell from Goulburn for $35m ($1458/ha) bare.

Chinese investor Rifa purchased the 24,000ha holding between Gloucester and Nowendoc in northern New South Wales, in 2015 for $32m including 5000 head of cattle.

It is the largest holding on the eastern fall of the Great Dividing Range and consists of three properties known as Cooplacurripa, Number One and the Nowendoc Saleyards.

The operation benefits from an average annual rainfall of 1036mm, with 682ML of water entitlements, and under normal seasonal conditions runs around 3900 Angus and Angus cross cows.

The Bells, who run Dorper sheep and cattle at their property Wirchilleba Station at Gilgunnia in western NSW, will move from their home base at Greendale at Breadalbane (between Goulburn and Yass) in the Southern Tablelands to Cooplacurripa in the New Year.

That means the property will be owner occupied for the first time in at least 20 years, having been owned by Rifa Salutary for the past six years and before that by financial services company AMP.

When COVID hit in March last year, Rifa CEO Cameron Hall said travel restrictions slowed down the sales process for Cooplacurripa, making it problematic for international parties to participate.

Since then, the station has experienced better seasons and the country has recovered well following the drought and the bushfires.

Col Medway from LAWD, who acted on behalf of the buyers, said while Rifa was well into the process of rebuilding the damage that occurred during that time, an extensive area of new fencing is still being undertaken and that was accounted for in the negotiated settlement.

Cooplacurripa was listed for sale in July 2019 together with Rifa’s entire Australian agricultural business portfolio consisting of 14 showcase properties which it had amassed over a five year period.

Spanning 43,776ha of prime red meat production land across northern New South Wales and Victoria, the aggregation consisted of a diversified and geographically dispersed collection of five main operational hubs, including 10,000 Angus breeders.

They also included:

  • 2405ha Blackwood Station (Victoria’s Western District)
  • 4390ha Kulwin Park Station (Victoria’s Southern Mallee)
  • 4391ha Ashleigh Station (Gravesend, NSW Northern Slopes)
  • 8613ha Middlebrook Station (Nundle, Northern NSW)

At the time, Bobby Jiang, director of Rifa Salutary* and vice president of Rifa Holding Group, said the company felt the time was right to capture value as a result of completed targeted capital expenditure and improvement programs across the portfolio, as well as underlying value growth.

Completed sales

Late in 2019, two properties changed hands:

The Dunkeld Pastoral Company, owned by prominent Melbourne barrister Allan Myers, paid around $30m for Blackwood Park in Victoria’s Western District. The historic 2405ha Dunkeld property, 8km north east of Penshurst, was settled in 1842 and was twice owned by the Ritchie family.

In November, the 4390ha Kulwin Park in Victoria’s Southern Mallee, 65km south of Swan Hill, was secured by an offshore investor-backed fund for close to $10m. The property had been farmed for dryland cropping and historically planted to barley, grazing oats and hay.

Early in 2020, a third property, Ashleigh Station was purchased by an unnamed domestic party. The 4391ha large scale cattle finishing and dryland farming platform is located at Gravesend, 14km west of Warialda and 60km east of Moree.

Situated in the renowned Northern Slopes region of New South Wales, it has a proven history of turning off 4200 dry cattle using winter and summer fodder crops, combined with improved and native pastures.

Early in 2020, following a seasonal break, CBRE Agribusiness relaunched the marketing of Rifa’s two unsold grazing enterprises – the 8613ha Middlebrook and the 23,977ha Cooplacurripa.

In November that year, an Australian living overseas paid around $50m (including 3300 to 3400 head of cattle) for Middlebrook Station.

The large-scale cattle breeding and finishing aggregation, is situated 36km from Tamworth, on the western fall of the Great Dividing Range.

Less than five kilometres apart, the 4049ha Middlebrook Park and the 4564ha Kooroon-Keeva, are operated as a single management unit.

Boasting high quality soil types and an average annual rainfall of 750mm, the enterprise has 884ML of water entitlements and can carry up to 4500 Angus cows in a normal season.

 

  • Rifa Salutary is the Australian arm of China’s Zhejiang Rifa Holding Group, which has significant investments in the specialist machinery and textiles sectors, aeronautical and aviation, finance and agriculture in China and globally.

 

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Comments

  1. Peter Dunn, 30/11/2021

    We need to understand that there are two sides to the disposal of farming, grazing and related industry assets by Chinese owners. On the surface it is great that these assets are returning to Australian or Australia friendly ownership. A necessary correction of previously misplaced trust. Below the surface this jettisoning of valuable and productive Australian assets should be seen as a possible “clearing of the decks” to allow further punitive measures against our rural industries, should China deem such to be necessary in it’s misguided pursuit of Australia’s subservience.
    Above all other considerations, Australians must remain united and strong in defending it’s rural and related industries.

    • will, 18/06/2022

      It isn’t a plan by the Chinese against Australian farms. Cooplacurripa station got hit hard in the drought, selling the herd down from 9000 to 1800, paying in excess of 60,000 a week in hay, then it got almost completely burnt in the fires. The fences only just got rebuilt. Rifa sold their farm assets because they were not making money.

    • Peter McGregor, 01/12/2021

      Agree wholeheartedly.

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