Dutch-based Optifarm, a fund backed by high net worth European investors, has added to its Australian farm portfolio after emerging as the buyer of the renowned cotton property Gundaline Station in the NSW Murrumbidgee Valley.
Gundaline Station, an irrigated property spanning 15,000 hectares near Carrathool, was offered for sale in October last year by Southern Ag, a locally managed fund backed by local and overseas investors including under-fire ASX-listed fund manager Blue Sky, Dutch government pension fund ABP and Singapore-based asset manager Duxton.
Optifarm’s acquisition of Gundaline Station follows its earlier purchases this month of Jemalong Station and Jemalong Citrus at Forbes in the NSW Central West region from Financial Review Rich Lister’s the Kahlbetzer family’s Twynam Agricultural Group.
In an announcement to the ASX late on Friday, ASX-listed Blue Sky Alternatives Access Fund (whose Blue Sky Agriculture Fund owns 32 per cent of Gundaline), confirmed the cotton property’s sale and said the price was “in line with the Alternatives Fund carrying value for the investment”.
“We anticipate this investment will be completed in the third quarter of 2018, following FIRB approval and the completion of the current cotton harvest and ginning,” BAF said
The price has not disclosed but it is understood that Gundaline Station sold for between $60 and $65 million – in line with its asking price.
Gundaline was offered for sale through Tim Faulkner of Kidder Williams and Danny Thomas of CBRE Agribusiness.
“While confidential at this stage, the agreed price represents an excellent result for the vendor and builds on the significant upward shift in groundwater and irrigated land values in the Murrumbidgee Valley,” Mr Thomas said.
A former rice plantation, Gundaline Station is now, following major investment by Southern Ag, one of the Murrumbidgee Valley’s largest cotton growing properties with 6000 hectares developed to row crop irrigation,16,000 megalitres of groundwater and around 17,000 megalitres of on-farm water storage. The remaining 9000 hectares are primed for permanent plantings like almonds.
Little is known about Gundaline Station’s new owners. According to ASIC filings, Optifarm’s shareholders are Dutch management firms Optidob and Vandenberg Europe Derivatives which acts for a number of private Dutch funds. Optifarm’s directors are listed as Jelle Rienk Elzinga, managing director of Dutch-based securities trader Optiver and Michael Wheeler, a finance manager at Australian agribusiness firm Landmark.
It is understood that farm management veteran Andrew Parkes’ Customised Farm Management (CFM), who will manage the two Jemalong properties on behalf of Optifarm, will also manage Gundaline. All three acquisitions are subject to Foreign Investment Review Board approval.
Mr Parkes, who is also a director of Gundaline, co-founded Southern Ag alongside David Montgomery, the former chairman of the Australian Cotton Industry Council and agribusiness mergers and acquisitions specialist Hugh Montgomery.