James Packer might look wistfully at Terra Firma's giant farm sale

by Chanticleer



The launch of the advertising campaign for Consolidated Pastoral Company may have James Packer feeling a pang of regret about the end of his brief stint as a farm baron.


Packer famously sold the CPC cattle station operations in 2009, reaping around $425 million. But nine years later the company's owner, British private equity firm Terra Firma, looks likely to fetch as much as $1 billion, having invested around $125 million during its ownership.


That's a lot of steak that Packer has arguably left on the table, although he and Terra Firma were going in very different directions back in 2009.


Packer was in the midst of one of the toughest periods of his career. He'd lost billions on his attempt to push into the Las Vegas market, his push into Macau was looking shaky and some estimates had his family fortune falling from $6 billion to $3 billion.


Terra Firma, on the other hand, saw a big opportunity.


Just as China's growth would underpin Australia's mining boom – and would eventually create billions in value for Packer's Crown Resorts in Macau – so too did it change the face of global agriculture.


Macro trends such as rising demand for beef from a bulging Asian middle class, a shift in population from rural areas to the city and a fall in arable land levels all underpinned Terra Firma's CPC deal.


More efficient


Insiders say the business, started by Kerry Packer in 1983 with the purchase of a big Northern Territory, was somewhat unloved when Terra Firma grabbed control.


The Brits, led in recent years by CPC chief executive Troy Setter, have poured in the time and money that Packer couldn't.


In addition to buying and selling other properties to improve CPC's geographic diversity, CPC has developed around 350,000 hectares of land to support an extra 50,000 head of cattle.


There have been improvements in infrastructure, investment in people and moves to drought-proof the operations. Even the gender balance of the business – which employed very few women under the Packer family's ownership – has been vastly improved.


This message – that foreign capital can help make Australia's farms more efficient – will be central to Terra Firma's attempts to assuage any concerns about CPC being sold to an overseas buyer.

This looms as a particularly prickly issue.


It is less than 18 months since the drawn out and at times farcical sales of the S Kidman and Co operations were finally approved. That sale, which took two years to complete, was beset with concerns about Australia's farmland falling into foreign – particularly Chinese – hands.


There were some particular sensitivities around that deal, including properties that were close to defence installations. The sheer size of the operations was also a factor – Kidman spanned 11 million hectares, compared to CPC's 5.5 million hectares.


New rules


Terra Firma, which is being advised by Goldman Sachs, has worked furiously to mitigate any Foreign Investment Review board issues.


The current advertising campaign has in part been driven by new rules stating that vendors must give Australian buyers first crack in farm sales.


Behind the scenes, CPC has regularly briefed FIRB, Treasury, the Department of Agriculture and all the relevant ministers and shadow ministers during its period of ownership. Given CPC has bought and sold several properties as it's restructured, it feels it has a good working relationship with FIRB.

Logically, the fact CPC is already owned by a foreign company should further reduce any concerns about it being sold to another overseas bidder.


But as so often happens in politics, logic can go out the window when nationalistic feelings are stirred – even more so when it's a great Aussie industry like farming.


In reality, of course, Australia has always relied on a degree of foreign capital to develop its agricultural sector. That need will only rise as demand for beef increases, climate changes gets worse and efficiency becomes paramount.


Read more: http://www.afr.com/brand/chanticleer/james-packer-might-look-wistfully-at-terra-firmas-giant-farm-sale-20180312-h0xdad#ixzz5AS58Ftrz

AuctionsPlus is a market leader in providing online services for the buying and selling of livestock. We provide the best product possible to assist with a value-added livestock trading experience that make AuctionsPlus the most effective way to buy and sell livestock.

AuctionsPlus is a market leader in providing online services for the buying and selling of livestock. We provide the best product possible to assist with a value-added livestock trading experience that make AuctionsPlus the most effective way to buy and sell livestock.

Office: auctionsplus.com.au
Level 6, 64 Clarence Street,
Sydney, Australia NSW, 2000.

Call Us: (02) 9262 4222
Mail: 
info@auctionsplus.com.au

Connect With Us Via Social Media
  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • Instagram - Grey Circle
  • LinkedIn - Grey Circle
Newsletter