Financial Review | 2 June 2014
Macquarie's cropping arm in black
MATTHEW CRANSTON AND ANGUS GRIGG
MACQUARIE Agricultural Funds Management's $150 million cropping property company, Lawson Grains, has reported a $100,000 profit, up from a $3 million loss last year.
The company's financial accounts, filed with the corporate regulator, show that as of December 2013, Lawson Grains controlled more than 42,000 hectares of prime cropping country across five main aggregations in NSW and Western Australia.
The company has received at least $110 million from parent company Macquarie Crop Partners in exchange for shares.
Macquarie Crop Partners is part of Macquarie Agriculture Funds Management and is responsible for raising money from institutional investors looking to invest in agricultural land.
Last week, Macquarie began an investigation into Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management employees who were involved in obtaining sensitive details about a competitor.
The internal investigation has been concluded and two Macquarie employees have resigned.
Lawson Grains, which was set up in 2010 and purchased its first properties off-market in 2012, issued $16.9 million worth of shares to Macquarie Crop Partners in January this year in a sure indication that the appetite from investors for Australian cropping land was growing.
Lawson Grains, whose directors include Christine Campbell, formerly of Twynam Agriculture, has made further large scale acquisitions, including the $36.5 million Jameson Farm at Wongan Hills in WA's wheat belt. Contracts for that property were signed in February.
The company's board also approved the acquisition of an additional property to its current Gunnadoo aggregation in WA, which will be funded by a shareholder loan.
Gunnadoo was purchased last year for $9 million following the purchase of its Hakea aggregation, also in WA, for $16.7 million.
In February, Lawson Grains purchased Billabong in southern NSW, which will be added to its $12 million Borambil property.
The company also purchased more than 7500 hectares of land, known as the UAH aggregation, in NSW on top of its existing 8000-hectare Kealandi property.
The company harvested 69,790 tonnes of crops, including wheat, canola, barley and chickpeas.
In the full year ending December 2013, Lawson Grains paid at least $1.3 million in fees to related parties, up from $526,000 in the previous corresponding period.