Paraway swoops on New England region with land purchases topping $100m

Jon Condon, 16/08/2016

CASHED-up Paraway Pastoral Co has targeted the NSW New England region in a big way, with a series of recent and pending cattle land purchases that appear to be worth well over $100 million.

The cornerstone of the seven recent property acquisitions, mostly prime Inverell district growing and finishing country, are two highly-regarded large-scale backgrounding/growing properties owned by Neil Statham’s Sundown Pastoral Co.

Newstead and Paradise, totalling about 12,200ha (30,000ac) are regarded as two of the best large-scale cattle assets in the region, being located east of Inverell, towards Guyra and Glen Innes. The deal is under contract, and expected to settle soon.

Backgroudner cattle on improved pastures on Sundown Pastoral Co's Newstead and Paradise aggregation near Inverell.

Backgrounder cattle on improved pastures on Sundown Pastoral Co’s Newstead and Paradise aggregation near Inverell.

The country has been used by Sundown Pastoral in recent times to background cattle for the Australian Agricultural Co, Beef Central understands.

Paradise traces its origins back to prominent local grazier, the late David Wright. Newstead is one of the pick blocks in the district, being all soft rolling basalt high-rainfall country.

Sundown has adopted a progressive and somewhat novel approach to pasture agronomy and grazing management, matching optimum nutrients for pasture species, in order to concentrate on optimising kilos of beef per hectare. Paraway says it will scrutinise the system and may continue along similar lines.

Paraway chose not to disclose price on any of the deals, but Beef Central understands the Newstead/Paradise deal, bare of stock, was worth about $78 million. If that figure proves accurate, it values the country at about $2600/ac, or $6420/ha – an unprecedented figure for finishing country across the New England district.

The money is easily a record for the district, as by any previous valuation prior to the current land value surge, $2000/ac would have been considered top dollar for country fitting this description, local property contacts suggested.

Cattle handling facility on Newstead

Cattle handling facility on Newstead

Sundown Pastoral retains its other significant northern NSW assets – namely Keytah, a large scale cotton farm west of Moree, and the Sundown property, near Kingstown, as well as an ownership arrangement for Gunnee feedlot.

A second aggregation of high-quality grazing country north of Inverell has also been put together recently by Paraway.

Beef Central understands the company paid $9.3 million for Burmah, about 5000ac near in the Graman district. An adjoining property, Aracoola Spring, 4000ac ($3.2 million), was bought separately, as was a smaller ajoining block called Burmah Downs, 1250ac (a little over $2 million).

A fourth nearby property, as yet un-named, is said to be close to agreement, but once completed, it will give Paraway a finishing aggregation in the area between Inverell and Yetman totalling about 5500ha. More details on that transaction once it is completed.

Earlier, Paraway bought another property further north in the Walcha district, a breeding holding called Aberbaldie, totalling about 4000ha, capable of running around 2000 breeders.

In total, it delivers Paraway a suite of new grazing assets across the New England district totalling around 22,000ha (Beef Central’s rough calculations), making it now one of the largest cattle operators in the region.

Adding finishing capacity

Beef Central understands Paraway’s recent string of New England purchases are designed to add high reliability (rainfall wise) finishing capability, to complement the company’s existing northern and southern breeding operations.

The company over the past four years has started shifting its genetic profile in cattle, using more Angus bulls on northern Queensland breeding properties, as well as in the NSW breeding/growing operations. It has been active in the spring bull selling market in recent weeks, including putting together another line of 37 Angus bulls averaging better than $7200 at Hazeldean’s northern sale at Jackson, Qld on Monday. Some bulls will be despatched to northern breeding depots including Clonagh, near Cloncurry, and perhaps also to Rocklands.

Chief executive Jock Whittle said it gave the company the option to breed a flat-back type animal, either for grass-finishing in Queensland, or if the opportunity arises, there was no reason why that animal could not come into the company’s NSW growing/finishing system, he said.

Re-designing property asset portfolio

Paraway’s pastoral portfolio has undergone some major transformations over the past year or so – both sales and acquisitions – as the company remodels itself to target different market objectives.

The recent and pending New England acquisitions bookend an incredibly busy three-month acquisition period for Paraway.

In May, the company outlaid more than $130 million on Pam Deamer’s Western Grazing properties, Rocklands and Tanbar. That deal included about 47,000 cattle.

Rocklands is a large-scale breeding property around 680,000ha near Camooweal near the NT border, while Tanbar, covering one million hectares, is a finishing property in the Cooper Creek Channel system in western Queensland.

Paraway has confirmed that there is absolutely no foundation to a recent rumour doing the rounds in property circles that it plans to place Tanbar back on the market, after its purchase as part of a ‘package deal’ with Rocklands.

Last year Paraway sold its Walhallow and Cresswell Downs aggregation to retail magnate Brett Blundy. No price was disclosed, but the deal came after an unsolicited offer from Mr Blundy.




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