DNIEPER Downs Station in the Northern Territory has been placed in the hands of receivers adding to the growing level of cattle stations in distress across Australia's Top End.
While the number of stations placed in receivership continues to increase as drought, a high Australian dollar and live export issues persist, buyers are starting to see some value and are taking advantage of the opportunities.
The Australian Financial Review has revealed a foreign buyer, this time the Insight Global Farmland Fund, has snapped up Forrest Hill Station in the Northern Territory and all its cattle for $6.4 million in a deal negotiated by Elders.
The 53,800 hectare station, adjoining Maryfield Station which itself is in receivership, is the second purchase by the Insight fund, which acquired cattle baron Sterling Buntine's 500,000 hectare Tanumbirini Station in the Northern Territory last year for $32 million.
While it is difficult to measure how far the value for such land has fallen, evidence suggests prices are down 40 per cent since the boom in 2007.
The purchase by Indonesian group Japfa of Riveren and Inverway stations last week for about $35 million is expected to reveal a drop in value since 2007 of at least 30 per cent. Inverway alone, was purchased for $17.65 million in 2007.
Determining the values of cattle stations is difficult as they are calculated based on how many adult cattle per hectare the property can sustain.
However, this can change over time and, sometimes, the transaction prices may or may not include cattle.
The 88,000 hectare Dnieper Downs Station, which is north-east of Alice Springs, was placed in receivership with Ferrier Hodgson's Will Colwell by Rabobank.
It is believed the station's owner Don Holt has sold his neighbouring Old MacDonald Downs station for $1.8 million.
Dnieper Downs joins Maryfield Station, Pine Hill and Wallco International's 1 million-hectare Killarney aggregation as properties in distress and up for sale.
Killarney has already had several inspections by potential buyers including the former Macarthur Coal chairman Keith De Lacy's new agribusiness venture STAG Beef.
Mr De Lacy confirmed that the company was looking at the Killarney property.
"Northern Territory is what we are focusing on but I really can't say much more about it," Mr De Lacy said.
Killarney Station, which had been in receivership with National Australia Bank, was passed in at auction last year on a vendor bid of $30 milllion.
It was offered with more 41,000 Brahman cattle.
Agents in the Top End have been discussing the re-emergence of major investors looking to buy stations while the values are down and the market is broken.
Ruralco Territory Rural's Steve Liebelt said overseas buyers had a greater appreciation of the cheapness of Australian cattle land. "I think we will see some of the Chinese buy cattle stations," Mr Liebelt said, "I think the values are down from where they were but what we see now is that the market has bottomed or close to it.
"So prudent investors, who see the need for growing protein, such as China and south-east Asia, have seen that we have some of the cheapest land prices in the world and are taking up that opportunity."