Chinese billionaire buys Australian cattle stations

Sydney | Reuters –– A Chinese billionaire has bought two large Australian cattle stations for A$47 million (C$44.8 million), 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 Co., snapped up 40,000 head of cattle along with the 705,700-hectare Wollogorang and Wentworth stations in far northern Australia, 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.

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Realtors Heinemann Rural and CBRE Australia, a unit of New York-listed CBRE Group Inc., declined to comment on the buyer or details of the deal, 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 in a statement.

News of the purchase comes just days after Australia’s agriculture minister said that a new live cattle export deal will soon be signed with an unnamed country, stoking hopes of a long-awaited deal with China.

Australia and China have been in talks concerning 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. Bluetongue isn’t harmful for human consumption but can be deadly for animals.

Several Chinese investors have been jostling for an advantage ahead of a likely deal.

Hailang Group earlier this year bought more than A$40 million of cattle stations in southern Queensland. Yiang Xiang Assets purchased a smaller property for around A$11.5 million.

Chongqing Agriculture Investment Group said earlier this year it was looking to buy up to A$100 million worth of cattle stations within the next year.

There’s also interest more broadly across agriculture as China’s rising middle class spurs demand for quality Australian produce.

Warriner said the Wollogorang and Wentworth stations had development potential beyond cattle breeding.

“There is scope to expand the current operation, enabling increased pasture utilization and therefore an increase in carrying capacity,” Warriner said.

Jane Wardell is Reuters’ deputy bureau chief for Australia and New Zealand, based in Sydney.


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