Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
Chinese billionaire buys two cattle stations in northern Australia for $47m
A Chinese billionaire has bought two large Australian cattle stations for $47m in at least the third deal this year involving a Chinese investor buying into the country’s farmlands.
Xingfa Ma, who owns the Tianma Bearing Group, snapped up 40,000 head of cattle with the 705,700-hectare Wollogorang and Wentworth stations on the Northern Territory/Queensland border, a person close to the deal said on Thursday.
Ma already has significant agricultural holdings in Australia, including other cattle stations and a wine group, through the Australian arm of Tianma Bearing.
Realtors Heinemann Rural and CBRE Australia, a unit of New York-listed CBRE Group, declined to comment on the buyer or details, but said the property held a strategic position in the red meat supply chain.
“Wollogorang is located within one of the country’s most unique and diverse regions, with favourable land and soil types supporting what is already a successful cattle breeding operation,” CBRE’S Geoff Warriner said.
News of the purchase comes just days after agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, said he would be trying to sign a new deal with an unnamed country, stoking hopes of a long-awaited deal with China.
Australia and China have been in talks about a deal that is potentially worth billions of dollars as appetite for red meat soars in China.
A resolution continues to be delayed by concerns the live exports would introduce into China an insect responsible for Bluetongue disease in the Australian herd. The virus is not harmful to humans but can be deadly for animals.
Several Chinese investors have been jostling for an advantage ahead of a likely deal.
Earlier this year the Hailang Group spent more than $40m on cattle stations in southern Queensland. Yiang Xiang Assets bought a smaller property for about $11.5m.
Chongqing Agriculture Investment Group said earlier this year it wanted to buy up to $100m worth of cattle stations within the next year.
There is also interest more broadly across agriculture as China’s rising middle class spurs demand for quality Australian produce.
Warriner said Wollogorang and the neighbouring Wentworth station had development potential beyond cattle breeding.
“There is scope to expand the current operation, enabling increased pasture utilisation and therefore an increase in carrying capacity,” Warriner said.