TFI owners tipped as buyer of $50m SA grazing showcase

Beef Central, 01/12/2017

Mt Schanck features a stately four-bedroom circa 1864 homestead set in manicured gardens


Editor’s note: Since this item was published on Friday, the Thomas family has confirmed their purchase of Mt Schanck. See statement at base of this page.  


THOMAS Foods International’s Thomas family is strongly rumoured to be the ‘Australian family’ which agents say has purchased South Australian showcase cattle and sheep property Mt Schanck, for a price somewhere above $50 million.

The property was sold on a walk-in, walk-out basis this week, a few days before the official expression of interest campaign was due to close yesterday.

From their base near Murray Bridge, Chris and Darren Thomas operate the Thomas Foods International beef and lamb export and domestic processing business, one of the largest family-owned red meat processing operations in Australia.

Attempts to contact Mr Thomas this afternoon were unsuccessful as he is overseas, but reliable local sources are confident the purchase rumour is true. Aircraft movements at Mt Gambier in the past fortnight have added weight to the view. The Thomas family already owns property in the Mr Gambier area, Beef Central understands.

At a price above $50 million including stock and plant, Mt Schanck represents one of the state’s largest-ever agribusiness deals.

Vendors, the Melbourne-based Evans family, offered the property to the open market for the first time in its history in October, in an expressions of interest campaign through CBRE Agribusiness’ Danny Thomas and Phil Schell.

Mt Schanck covers about 2870ha (7090ac) and includes almost 5000 megalitres of Ground Water Entitlement.

The sale included more than 2000 quality Angus cows with calves (Rennylea, Te Mania and Landfall bloodlines) plus heifer replacements, along with 2500 composite ewes with lambs at foot, and an extensive list of fit-for-purpose plant and equipment.  The purchasers have retained all existing staff.

Comparable local country has apparently recently been making $5000-$6000/ac dry, with similar water rights selling for $1000 to $1500/Ml, Beef Central was told by a local source this afternoon. That would value the land component at around $35 million, with water worth $5-$7.5m before stock, buildings etc.

About 700ha has been developed to centre pivot irrigation, utilised variously for lucerne based pastures, fodder cropping and hay production

CBRE’s Danny Thomas (no relation) said the property’s scale and prominence attracted strong buyer interest from all market segments, but particularly from high net worth local families and family offices.

“Mt Schanck represented an outstanding opportunity to acquire an investment scale asset that has played an important part in the history of Australian agriculture,” he said.

The iconic nature of the property, its reputation and its presentation by the Evan’s family, were key factors in drawing the attention of a strong field of buyers, Mr Thomas said.

These factors combined to flush-out a ‘very strong’ offer prior to the close of the EOI, which the vendors chose to accept given it was on cash terms with little conditionality and included the retention of the vendors’ loyal staff, he said.

Mt Schanck was purchased in 2005 by Spotless Group managing director of Ron Evans and his wife Andrea in an off-market deal from the Clarke family, which owned Mt Schanck for more than 140 years, having purchased the property from the Arthur brothers of Van Diemen’s Land in 1861.

Located 13km south of Mount Gambier, the property is close to the Port of Portland, and saleyards at Mount Gambier and Hamilton.

About 700ha has been developed to centre pivot irrigation, utilised variously for lucerne based pastures, fodder cropping and hay production, with occasional third-party use (short term leases) for potatoes and other cash crops.

Operational improvements comprise a stately four-bedroom, circa 1864 homestead set within manicured gardens, in addition to numerous additional high-quality staff residences, a circa 1875 six-stand shearing shed, shearer’s quarters and an as-new set of Pratley sheep and cattle yards.

Thomas family statement:

The Thomas family is honoured to become the custodians of the historic Mt Schanck station in South Australia.

Darren Thomas said the opportunity to purchase the landmark property in the State’s South East was too good to pass by.

“Mt Schanck has a remarkable history and will continue to play a key role in Australia’s agricultural sector,” Mr Thomas said.

“Through Thomas Foods International we have enjoyed a long association with this property sourcing high quality livestock over two decades. We know first-hand the outstanding quality of the asset and stock it can produce.

“We’re proud to maintain the strong tradition of Australian family ownership of this property after the Clarke and Evans families.

“We consider Mt Schanck to be among the jewels of not just South Australia’s, but the nation’s agricultural holdings.

“The property is a real credit to the Evans family and how they have continued to improve the holding over the years. My Father Chris and I now look forward to taking over the reins and carrying on that legacy.”

Mr Thomas is Chief Executive of Thomas Foods International – Australia’s largest 100% family owned meat processing company.

“This is a Thomas family acquisition as part of an ongoing plan to invest further in primary agriculture,” Darren said.

“Our family holds a very positive long term outlook for Australian agriculture and this acquisition reflects that confidence.”

The Thomas family is adopting a “business as usual” approach to its new property with all staff to be retained and settlement expected before Christmas.

“In the future it’s likely the property’s output may ultimately filter through the Thomas Foods International global network in some shape or form. We could even see some Mt Schanck beef and lamb grace some of the finest restaurants throughout the world. However that’s still to be determined,” Mr Thomas said.

The family has not disclosed a purchase price.


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