Qatar's farmland investment Hassad Australia yet to make profit

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Australian Financial Review | 10 March 2016

Qatar's farmland investment Hassad Australia yet to make profit

MATTHEW CRANSTON

Hassad Australia, the $469 million agricultural land company owned by Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, has delivered a $3.46 million loss and is yet to make a profit since beginning in Australia in 2010.

Hassad owns 14 agricultural property aggregations in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, totalling about 300,000 hectares of pastoral and cropping land. But every year since beginning the company has made a loss, with a combined worth of more than $27 million.

The results come at a crucial time in Australia's agricultural sector, where there is a debate about whether superannuation funds should be investing more in farm enterprises.

While there are plenty of examples of profitable operations, there have been some disasters recently, such as the listed integrated agribusiness Wellard, whose share price has plunged 40 per cent since listing on the Australian Securities Exchange late in 2015.

Hassad's chief executive John McKillop, who took over from Tom McKeon late in 2015, declined to comment on the accounts.

John Corbett, who has been a director of the company since inception, said he was not in a position to comment on the company's accounts.

The company's principal activity is to invest in agricultural land in Australia, mostly in the areas where livestock and and cereal grain production is conducted.

Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan said he was curious about why the company had never made a profit.

"We welcome foreign investment, as long as it is done on a level playing field," Senator Heffernan said.

"[The company results] probably bear inspection from the Tax Office and the Foreign Investment Review Board."

Hassad is very closely watched by the FIRB and was a participant in the federal government's reviews into agricultural land ownership.

The Hassad board is chaired by Nasser Mohamed Al Hajri, who chaired the delegation of the state of Qatar at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The company is a large exporter of sheep meat by air transport to countries such as Qatar.
Original source: AFR
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