Australia's largest wheat grower sells to US Westchester

Ron Greentree - Australia's largest wheat farmer has sold part of his farm for as much as $55 million to US pension fund manager TIAA. (Photo: PAUL MATHEWS)
Financial Review | 4 September 2016

Australia's largest wheat grower sells to US Westchester
by Matthew Cranston
US giant TIAA's Westchester has purchased a major part of northern NSW cropping farm Milton Downs from Australia's biggest wheat grower Greentree Farming for a figure some estimate to be in the vicinity of $50 million.
Details of the drawn-out deal have been kept quiet but sources told The Australian Financial Review that Westchester had completed a deal for a 10,000-hectare parcel of land in the south eastern part of the Milton Downs aggregation.
Greentree Farming is owned by Ron Greentree and Ken Harris. They were unavailable for comment on the deal.
The overall property, at Bellata outside Moree, was placed on the market more than two years ago in conjunction with the property known as Boolcarrol with expectations the aggregation could sell for between $150 to $200 million.
Milton Downs has had numerous prominent owners including the Kahlbetzer family's Twynam Group and Dick Honan's Manildra Group which once owned and developed Milton Downs.
Ray White Rural's Bruce Gunning had been marketing the 50,000 hectares of black soil country, of which 90 per cent has been cultivated. He was unavailable for comment on the deal.
From the beginning of the selling campaign the property was expected to attract the ­attention of US  financial services giant TIAA which has purchased well over $1 billion worth of rural land in Australia in the last seven years.
Under Foreign Investment Review Board rules investors from the US have higher price thresholds for agricultural land purchases than most other countries.
The country around Moree is some of the richest, most productive soil in Australia. Prices per hectare in the area have fetched about $5000 per hectare.
Mr Greentree and Mr Harris placed the property on the market as part of plans to finalise a long-held partnership.
"There have been a lot of fund ­managers come to us and asked to buy it but I have said no," Mr Greentree said at the time the property went on the market.
"If the fund managers say they want to get into agriculture, let's just see how serious they are."
After buying the ­properties in 2008 for about $70 million, Mr Greentree and Mr Harris developed them further.
They added about 300 kilometres of roads on the properties, built new workshops and ­accommodation and increased both the area of plantation and the productivity of the farms.
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Original source: AFR

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