THE MYSTERY buyer of one of Victoria’s largest farms has been revealed.
On Friday Hassad Australia announced South Australian agribusiness AJ & PA McBride had purchased its 47,677 hectare Telopea Downs aggregation, confirming rumours that had been circling the livestock sector on the Vic-SA border for some weeks.
The Telopea Downs aggregation is made up of eleven properties and the sale is one of the largest single parcel farmland deals on record in Victoria.
The price was not confirmed officially due to confidentiality clauses around the sale; however third party reports have indicated a figure of around $70 million.
Situated north of Kaniva in the far west Wimmera, the Telopea Downs district was one of the last parts of Victoria to be opened up to agriculture.
It was cleared in the 1960s and used primarily for grazing.
Annual rainfall is a relatively healthy 425mm, however non-wetting sandy soil made significant crop production unrealistic during the early years of farming in the area.
In recent years there has been success with clay delving throughout the area, creating a better top soil more capable of holding moisture, while irrigation using ground water has also been successful, especially in terms of lucerne production.
Chairman of AJ & PA McBride, Keith McBride, said the property was a good fit for his business, which owns ten properties across South Australia including iconic Outback stations and farms in premium parts of the south-east of the state.
“It’s a good fit with our portfolio and long-term strategic plan and is the largest increase in the size of the company since the acquisition of (northern SA station) Wilgena in 1924,” Mr McBride said.
Hassad Australia, which is owned by a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, primarily used the aggregation as a sheep breeding and trading station, together with ancillary cropping and cattle operations.
When it purchased the properties in 2012, it was interested in creating a large scale Awasssi sheep flock.
The Awassi breed, with their distinctive fat tails, are one of the most popular breeds in the Middle East.
However, Mr McBride said the new purchase would be primarily used to bolster the business’s wool producing capacity.
“The acquisition will complement our strength in wool production and may provide some short-term stock trading opportunities as well as long-term pasture improvement potential to enhance productivity on the property.”
Hassad Australia has shifted its focus in the past 18 months, divesting a number of properties throughout Victoria and South Australia, with Barton Station at Moyston its property remaining in the two states now.
It now has a stronger focus on cropping, through a number of holdings in NSW and Western Australia.
The company reported a $5.2m loss for 2017 in its last reported results, however it is expected to profit handsomely on the Telopea sale, with land prices in the area appreciating significantly since it purchased the properties in 2012.