THE Macquarie Group has confirmed it has wrapped up a deal with the Qatari-owned Hassad Food Group to buy more than 100,000 hectares of farmland Australia-wide.
The nine Hassad Australia properties are expected to be split between two farming companies, the Paraway Pastoral grazing business and cropping enterprise Viridis Ag.
Both are divisions of the banking group’s agricultural investment management business, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Asset (MIRA).
No price has been disclosed, but industry observers have previously estimated the sale to be worth about $300 million.
The newly-launched Viridis Ag is understood to be taking over seven of the Hassad holdings in WA, South Australia and New South Wales, primarily for grain production.
Viridis bought its first property the 16,500-hectare, ‘The Grange’ at Dongara in January from livestock exporter Mauro Balzarini, the chief executive of Wellard.
The Hassad sell-off to Macquarie coincides with the Qatar Investment Authority becoming an investor in one of MIRA’s agricultural portfolios through its Hassad subsidiary.
Hassad, which is winding up its almost decade-long direct involvement in Australian agricultural production, said it had changed its investment direction after a strategic review of its business.
The review started a series of high-profile property sales beginning two years ago with it offloading the first property it had purchased in Australia (in 2010), the 2632-hectare Kaladbro Station in Victoria, sold to South Australian pastoralists, Tom and Pat Brinkworth in late 2016.
That was followed by the mid-2017 sale of the former Clyde Agriculture aggregation, the 125,300ha Clover Downs, then aggregations ‘Glendale’ near Clare and ‘Ungarra’ on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and the 9782-hectare Raby Station in central west NSW late in the year.
Having also recently sold its 47,677ha ‘Telopea Downs’ grazing property in Victoria, Hassad is closing its Melbourne office and planning to achieve its farm investment objectives across a significantly bigger and more diverse Australian farming portfolio.
However, it has declined to say which MIRA fund it has bought into, or how much it has contributed.
MIRA’s head of agriculture, Elizabeth O’Leary said the asset management business was delighted with its transaction with Hassad and “we look forward to working together in the future”.
The Macquarie enterprise has built up an agricultural platform spanning more than four million hectares in the past decade, becoming one of Australia’s biggest diversified farming operations.
Paraway Pastoral and Viridis Ag also gain the more than 40 staff who currently make up the on-farm management teams on the Hassad properties.
MIRA also plans to expand its NSW management teams at Orange, where Paraway is based, and Albury, which is