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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Macquarie Places Lawson Grains on the Market

Amid a recent uptick in high-profile Australian holdings being put on the market, this may be the biggest. Macquarie Bank has decided to sell Lawson Grains - a 105,000-hectare (260,000-acre) corporate grain and oilseed farming venture with properties across New South Wales and Western Australia.

The marketing campaign, which will be carried out and managed by Danny Thomas, Col Medway, and John McKillop with Land Agribusiness Water and Development (LAWD), will begin Monday March 15 with a “strong preference” by Macquarie that the portfolio be sold as a whole - however, a price expectation has yet to be disclosed.

Owned through Macquarie Crop Partners, Lawson Grains, which is headquartered in Albury, New South Wales, represents one of the single largest cropping assets to ever be offered in Australia. And as the fund approaches its 10-year life this year, Lawson Grains has amassed a portfolio of more than 70 farms that produced more than 250,000 tons of grains and oilseeds last year.

Broken down, the portfolio includes four aggregations in New South Wales: Kealandi (9,390 arable hectares) in Moree; Grassmere (9,914 arable hectares) in Oaklands; Borambil (8,255 arable hectares), outside of Rand; and Uah (10,524 arable hectares) in Forbes -- and six aggregations in Western Australia: Walyoo (5,574 arable hectares) in Dandaragan; Jerry South at Jerramungup; St Leonards and Wongan (10,770 arable hectares) in Wongan Hills; Gunnadoo (12,527 arable hectares) in Jacup; and Hakea (12,734 arable hectares) in Munglinup. The sale will also include Lawson’s management and technical team centered at its Albury headquarters, who are part of the company’s national staff totaling 55 people, and a significant fleet of equipment used to harvest Lawson Grains’ 90,500 hectares of arable acreage.

This strategically curated collection of holdings is geographically diversified across multiple grain belts and climates to mitigate risk, and offers a new owner proximity to both key domestic buyers and five ports for access to overseas markets.

A buyer will also benefit from years of improvements undertaken by Macquarie on the portfolio through the integration of sensor technologies, weed control technologies, variable rate input methods, controlled traffic cropping initiatives, and enhanced employment of microbials to improve soil health and productivity.

Coming off a bumper crop season last year, MIRA’s focus on improving output, good rainfall at the beginning of this season in southern Western Australia, and good soil moisture across New South Wales bode well for 2021. And together with Macquarie Crop Partners reaching maturation and increasing land values, now seems like an opportune time to sell.

Macquarie will remain holding its other agricultural investments including Paraway Pastoral Company through Macquarie Pastoral Fund, and Viridis Ag, held by Macquarie Agriculture Fund Management, which purchased its first farm - The Grange, a 16,500-hectare livestock operation in Western Australia - in 2018.

MIRA is also currently embroiled in a bidding war with ROC Partners for Vitalharvest Freehold Trust - an externally managed real estate investment trust (REIT) that currently holds a portfolio of seven farms valued at $275 million.

MIRA’s initial bid of A$300 million proffered in November 2020 received conditional approval from Costa Group - leaseholder of the Vitalharvest portfolio. However, in March of this year ROC Private Equity entered the ring with a counter bid of A$314.8 million for Vitalharvest, forcing MIRA’s hand, and which only days ago raised its bid to match ROC.


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