Being a landlord suits Nicoletti well

Being a landlord suits Nicoletti well

Agribusiness
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"I thought I could retire - I might be tired but I can't retire."

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 WA agribusinessman John Nicoletti has been acquiring properties across the State with the intention to lease them out to farmers.

WA agribusinessman John Nicoletti has been acquiring properties across the State with the intention to lease them out to farmers.

BUYING farmland and leasing it out is a business model traditionally used by superannuation and investment companies.

With consistently strong demand for farmland in recent years, it's a model that has proved very viable and a high profile Western Australian farmer has cottoned onto the idea.

John Nicoletti has been purchasing farmland in the past year or so, totalling more than 26,000 hectares with an estimated value of $32.65 million across Borden, Hyden, Beacon and Beermullah.

With the sale of his John Deere dealerships still in the works and rumoured to be worth about $40m, Mr Nicoletti said being a farmer suited him more than a machinery dealer.

"I don't mind being either - a farmer or a machinery dealer - but I think buying land for people who want to lease it is a lot easier than running a dealership," Mr Nicoletti said.

"I think what is happening nowadays is that we have been somewhat dictated to and I don't like that - I think that if you have a look at where machinery dealers all across the globe are going, I don't think that's the way we should conduct business.

"I strongly believe that the person who owns the store should run the store."

Mr Nicoletti's investments include properties at Borden, Hyden, Beermullah and two at Beacon, which cover about 26,000ha. Google Maps: Map data 2020.

Mr Nicoletti's investments include properties at Borden, Hyden, Beermullah and two at Beacon, which cover about 26,000ha. Google Maps: Map data 2020.

Mr Nicoletti said selling the dealerships was also due to the fact he didn't have a succession plan in place for someone to take them on after him.

Once WA's largest grain farmer and was known as the 'grain king', it's clear Mr Nicoletti is not exiting agriculture any time soon.

"I thought I could retire - I might be tired but I can't retire," he said.

For his next business venture, Mr Nicoletti has generally opted for a buy and lease business model, as most of the properties he has purchased in recent times have been leased to WA farmers who he felt were good operators.

"If I know people who are very good farmers but can't afford to buy land, well I don't mind buying land for people to farm who love it and are good at it," he said.

"Investing in farmland is a strong way to invest your money.

"I see land values in WA as still rather manageable and affordable so that is the road I chose to go down."

Mr Nicoletti said purchasing properties of diverse locations was a strategic decision to give his portfolio diversification and try to mitigate risk.

He is also operating a couple of properties with crops and sheep "to knock them into shape".

"Once we have done that, we will either on-sell them or lease them out - most likely lease them if we have good operators lined up," Mr Nicoletti said.

After rainfall over the past month, he said the crops were looking good.

"In the past four weeks we have seen a fantastic change in the crops - we didn't get big rains, just nice gentle rainfall, so it has been good," he said.

"It is certainly much better than what we were expecting at the start of the season."

With the agricultural industry generally going strong, Mr Nicoletti said he had an appetite to purchase more land in the future if the opportunity arose.

"If I think it's good value and I have some good tenants ready to go, then that's what I'll do," he said.

Last year Mr Nicoletti sold his major broadacre eastern Wheatbelt portfolio of 203,000ha (76,000ha freehold and 134,000ha leasehold) to Saudi Arabian investment firm Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) for more than $60m.

The sale included land that was spread across Merredin, Westonia, Bullfinch, Mukinbudin, Southern Cross and Mullewa, with 157,000ha being arable, about 40,000 Merinos and a comprehensive list of machinery.

Mr Nicoletti was criticised by some members of the public for selling such a large parcel to a foreign investor, despite no Australian buyer offering to buy the whole lot or only wanting to purchase the higher quality land.

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