LEGENDARY logistics businessman Chris Corrigan has expanded his interests in agricultural land, becoming a director and investor in PrimeAg Australia.
PrimeAg is now controlled by one of the country's leading private farmers, Australian Food & Fibre, after it divested and privatised late last year. Mr Corrigan, whose directorship was formalised earlier this year, is backing agriculture as the next boom growth sector in Australia.
A private equity business he chairs, Kaplan Equity Investment, made separate investments in the Australian Agricultural Company and Ruralco late last year. Those investments have grown in value and are now worth about $70 million.
Mr Corrigan, who started Australian ports operator Patrick Corporation, chairs emerging port and logistics player Qube Logistics.
Earlier this year Qube teamed up with two of GrainCorp's key customers to set up a rival grains handling facility called Quattro Grain in Port Kembla, indicating Mr Corrigan is taking a vertically integrated approach to agriculture.
His investment in PrimeAg is likely to grow under the new management.
PrimeAg sold 60 per cent of its land portfolio to US financial services giant TIAA CREF's Global Agriculture business last year before selling the remaining properties and the company's non-property assets to Australian Food & Fibre for $45.1 million.
Those properties include Lower Box and Dodds at Garah, NSW, Kurrajong Hills at Warialda, NSW and Lakeland Downs at Condamine in Queensland. They were purchased at a 16.4 per cent discount to PrimeAg's recorded book value.
Australian Food & Fibre, which is chaired by David Robinson, made a $7 million profit on its shareholding in PrimeAg before the buyout of the remaining business.
Accounts filed with the corporate regulator showed Australian Food & Fibre made an overall $10.39 million profit in 2013, up from a $3.579 million profit the previous year.
Mr Robinson said in a directors report the company was on the acquisition trail. "The company proposes to continue to aggregate its broadacre farming operations through direct investment opportunities and has entered into option agreements in respect of properties in the Moree district," he noted.
The $189 million company increased cotton plantings last year to 13,242 hectares from 9755 hectares. It was the company's largest planting, regarded as one of the best cotton and wheat farming operators in Australia.
Mr Corrigan's investment follows other entrepreneurs getting into agriculture including billionaire Andrew Forrest, media magnate Harold Mitchell and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart , who bought a 50 per cent stake in two properties owned by the Milne Agrigroup.
Former Leighton Holdings chairman David Mortimer has also set up Alpha Agricultural Investment Partners to buy into rural land.
Mr Corrigan declined to comment on his investment in PrimeAg and Australian Food & Fibre director David Robinson was unavailable.