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Netley Station sold to Swiss aviation executive Oscar Schwenk’s SAFH

February 11, 2019

Netley Station has been bought by Swiss aviation executive, Oskar J Schwenk. Photo: Supplied

A Swiss aviation executive, who has quietly built up a substantial angus cattle and merino sheep empire in southern Australia, has bought the historic outback property Netley Station near Broken Hill from long-time owner Gary Radford for $10.6 million.

The 73,299-hectare property, 83 kilometres south of Broken Hill, was acquired by Swiss Australia Farm Holding (SAFH), whose sole shareholder is Oskar J Schwenk.

Mr Schwenk is the chairman and former long-running CEO of the Pilatus Group, an 80-year-old company based in Stans, Switzerland that is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of single-engine turboprop corporate and military aircraft.

Its top-of-the-line P-24 business jet is priced at $US8.9 million ($12.6 million). The company sold $1.4 billion worth of aircraft in 2017, according to its website, and employs over 2100 people.

Pilatus has close ties with Australia, with its local subsidiary, Pilatus Australia, operating from offices at Adelaide Airport.

Mr Schwenk joined Pilatus as an engineer 1979 and was chief executive officer from 1993 to 2006. In 2000 he led the acquisition of Pilatus by a group of private Swiss investors from its parent, Swiss technology company Unaxis Group.

The acquisition of Netley Station is the fourth station acquired by Mr Schwenk’s SAFH which grows pure bred Angus cattle and Merino sheep in south eastern Australia and breeds high quality Brahmans in North Queensland.

Its portfolio includes 7433-hectare Naweena at Padthaway and 6876-hectare Glenstrae at Willalooka, both in South Australia’s Lime Coast region and 143,000-hectare Neumayer Valley Station at Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

SAFH general manager Chris Venus told The Australian Financial Review the company planned to run Netley Station as a “quality merino sheep and wool growing enterprise”.

“The station still has a reasonable body of dry feed despite the ongoing drought. As with most others in the Western Lands Division, we are hopeful for some good consistent rains soon to break what has been one of the worst droughts in memory,” Mr Venus said.

The sale of Netley Station was brokered by Simon McIntyre of Landmark Harcourts on behalf of Mr Radford, a renowned Broken Hill businessman and farming figure who is retiring.

Netley Station, which Mr Radford had owned since 1987 running cattle, Merino sheep and Dorpers, was his last remaining pastoral holdings and his most prized. At one time he owned as many as 12 stations around Broken Hill having first made his name in the transport sector.

Mr McIntyre said Netley Station was sold in impeccable condition – particularly its fencing and water infrastructure – and had attracted a lot of buyer enquiry.

“You don’t need to spend any more money on Netley … you just need rain,” Mr McIntyre said.

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