Hedge-fund millionaire Diggle targets $150 million for farm fund

Bloomberg | 3 May 2012
“I got the idea in 2008 when I thought the world was falling apart,” says Stephen Diggle.

By Tomoko Yamazaki

Vulpes Investment Management, the Singapore company set up by hedge-fund manager Stephen Diggle, plans to raise as much as $150 million over the next few months for a fund that invests in farms around the world.

The $35 million Vulpes Agricultural Land Investment Company, which has a cattle and sheep farm in Uruguay, two corn farms in Illinois, and a New Zealand kiwi-and-avocado orchard, is seeking to raise at least $50 million in the next couple of months to expand investments into Africa and Eastern Europe, Diggle said.

Once Singapore’s biggest hedge-fund manager at Artradis Fund Management Pte, Diggle is allowing outsiders access to the investments run by his family office as he seeks assets that can counter inflation. His farmland portfolio has had a yield of about 5 percent since Diggle began buying land in 2009, with land price appreciation of about 35 percent, as an increase in wealth drives demand for a broader range of food, he said.

“I got the idea in 2008 when I thought the world was falling apart,” Diggle said in an interview in Singapore this week. “Yield-producing safe assets are intrinsically more interesting.”
Global food prices rose 8 percent from December to March because of higher oil prices, adverse weather and strong demand in Asia for food imports, the World Bank said last month. Food prices are rising again, threatening food security for millions of people, according to the Washington-based World Bank.

The about 3,500 hectares (8,649 acres) cattle and sheep farm in Uruguay has yielded about 3 percent since Vulpes purchased it in 2010, with land appreciation of about 50 percent, according to Diggle.

Diversifying Assets

The fund also owns two sites in Illinois, primarily producing corn and yielding 7 percent since Vulpes invested in 2009. The land price has appreciated as much as 50 percent, while the kiwifruit and avocado farm in New Zealand has returned up to 14 percent since the purchase in 2011, he said.

With the new funding, Diggle plans to diversify the portfolio by geography, products, weather and government interference, he said. He said he is considering possible investments in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in Africa, and Ukraine or Bulgaria in Eastern Europe.

Diggle, who made $2.7 billion for investors as markets seesawed in 2007 and 2008 at Artradis, opened his family office after liquidating Artradis’s volatility funds last year. Vulpes currently has about $250 million in assets, according to Diggle.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tomoko Yamazaki in Tokyo at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andreea Papuc at [email protected]
Original source: Bloomberg

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