In the past year, Southern Agri Fiduciary has sold 12 of 13 farms totalling 39,722 hectares across the north-eastern Wheatbelt through agent Acumentis Property Advisers for more than $30 million.
Prices paid for the properties varied - with the best land near Tardun (called St Joseph's) selling for $2000 per arable hectare and the land further south near Goodlands reaping considerably less at $800/ha arable.
Southern Agri Fiduciary is a large United Kingdom-based company formed in 2013 and registered as a foreign company in Australia.
Its aim with the WA property purchases was to assume the trusteeship of several farms and it bought up vast tracts from north of Mullewa to east of Wubin for about $12 million.
About 27,000ha were cropped each year.
Eighty per cent of the 13 farm assets operated on the basis of leases only and 20pc operated on the basis of both leases and share cropping arrangements.
Jointly these arrangements created opportunity for income and capital growth.
The 13 farms bought by Southern Agri Fiduciary had 61 titles.
The benefit of these farm purchases for the UK investor was two-fold - firstly the income stream to ensure that the farms maintained a solid annual return and, secondly, the capital gain to ensure return of capital upon sale of the asset.
Due to the vesting of the trust, Southern Agri Fiduciary Limited offered for sale the assets as one whole portfolio or separate farms in late 2022.
Ben Lamers, of Acumentis, said Southern Agri Fiduciary Trust started buying rural properties in Western Australia in about 2011 through to 2013.
He said at the time, the market was relatively flat and there was not a lot of interest in rural assets.
"The total outlay over the early few years, starting in 2011, was about $11 million to $12m and the goal was to lease the farms to local farmers who knew the land well and also to share crop where they could with the farmers," Mr Lamers said.
"After a holding period of 10 years, the trust decided to crystalise the growth in property prices they had achieved over this period and move on to the next opportunity."
A marketing campaign was undertaken by Acumentis in October, November and December 2022.
The brief was to sell the portfolio as a whole package of farms, or in parts, to local farmers if the price was right.
Mr Lamers said during the marketing period, there was very strong interest from overseas investors, such as sovereign funds, interstate investors and locals who knew the portfolio well.
"But as soon as the market/interested parties realised the enormous size of the portfolio, the distances between the extremities of the portfolio - ranging from East Yuna in the northern Wheatbelt down to the district of Goodlands in the Central Wheatbelt - many realised that to manage and operate such a large group of farms as one holding would be a challenge," he said.
"After seeking expressions of interest, we were more than happy with the response from the market to buy the farms available individually.
"There was strong interest in almost all of the farms from local farmers.
"These were often families who had worked the area for generations.
"Local investors were also keen as they understood the long term advantages of acquiring rural assets."
Mr Lamers said, in most instances, multiple offers were received for each farm, which resulted in a healthy environment of competitive bidding.
He said during the time of selling and marketing, there was a strong sense of local farmers wanting to invest and expand their operations.
"Many had spoken to me hoping the land would not be sold to overseas investors," he said.
"As it turned out, the majority of buyers were local farmers or WA investors.
"This resulted in the client being happy with the numbers achieved for each farm."
Mr Lamers said with regard to the timing of the sale of the land, he thought it was spot on.
He said the district within the north eastern Wheatbelt of WA had previously had two to three years of consistent to good years in terms of grain yield, which resulted in plenty of confidence in making offers.
"This year has turned out to be markedly different," he said.
"In summary, the trust turned about $12m invested in the rural market of WA into a number north of $30m - with still one farm left to sell in Latham.
"Negotiations are ongoing for this property, known as Dorredale.
"But we are confident that a buyer will snap up this 2776ha of land shortly."
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