Victoria River District cattle stations Riveren and Inverway are set to be sold a new Australian based investment fund called Archipelago Beef Trust.
The sale is still subject to a settlement period, but has been negotiated at a price above $60 million.
Existing owner Japfa, a major Indonesian listed agri-business with significant cattle feedlot and processing interests, paid $39 million walk in, walk out to buy both properties, with 46,000 cattle, from the Underwood family in October 2013.
In the two and a half years since Beef Central understands Japfa has invested in an extensive new water development program on Riveren and Inverway to increase its long-term carrying capacity.
The current sale is said to include 40,000 cattle.
The Darwin rumour mill has been alive with talk for over a month that Chinese interests were circling with a significant offer to buy Riveren and Inverway.
However, in the past week a newly formed fund called Archipelago Beef Trust headed by Luke Butler has emerged as the successful buyer.
Mr Butler’s emergence as the buyer has attracted negative media reports in the past 24 hours focusing on parts of his business history, including a former bankruptcy and a three-year ban on managing corporations for three years imposed on Mr Butler by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission from 2005 to 2007. A wikipedia page for his former aviation company Global Air states that his bankruptcy was formally annulled in 2003.
In a statement to Beef Central a spokesperson for Mr Butler said he has experienced “the highs and lows of business across the globe” but would not be responding to the media comments about Mr Butler’s character, which the statement described as “frivolous”.
“We are currently ignoring misplaced commentaries and focusing on implementing our plans, which will see Archipelago Beef well positioned for the live export trade to Asia,” the statement said.
“Our directors are not in a position to comment on current sales, due to commercial-in-confidence but I am sure they will have a lot to say, once sales are finalised.”
A Japfa spokesperson told Beef Central today that the company had “no comment” to make at this point in relation to the reported sale.
However Beef Central understands from other sources that the sale is progressing towards final settlement.
At a price of over $60 million, the sale will set a new benchmark for northern cattle property values.
Major corporate land owners have just conducted re-valuations of their land, with AA Co this week reporting a 15.8pc increase in the value of its 18 cattle stations (March valuation) and North Australian Pastoral Company reporting a 10pc increase in property values (December valuation).
There have been few major sales in recent months against which to test values, but several smaller properties in the Northern Territory have changed hands at prices representing an approximate 5pc lift in values in recent months.
All major landholders in northern Australia will be watching the sale of Riveren and Inverway and asking what it means for their own values.
Another property marketing program that will be watched closely for its potential ramifications for northern property values involves the sale of the four-property portfolio of Kimberley properties being offered by SAWA Pastoral Co, covering more than one million hectares, 47,000 branded cattle and the current calf crop.
- The original version of this article has been updated to included a statement from a spokesperson for Luke Butler