Chinese billionaire selling cattle station empire the size of Belgium

The portfolio includes plenty of water and water storage. 
AFR | 15 October 2023

Chinese billionaire selling cattle station empire the size of Belgium

by Larry Schlesinger
Rich Lister Hui Wing Mau, founder and majority owner of debt ladden Chinese property developer Shimao Group Holdings, has put a WA cattle station portfolio almost as big as Belgium on the market with an asking price of about $250 million.
Marketed as the Kimberley Cattle Portfolio, the offering encompasses more than 2.9 million hectares over six pastoral leases (1,828,692ha) and six sub-leases (924,325ha), as well as an agistment agreement over 153,475ha in the East Kimberley region of WA.
Mr Hui, who has dual Australian-Chinese citizenship, was ranked 19th richest Australian on the 2023 Financial Review Rich List with a $4.9 billion fortune.
The majority of his wealth is held in Hong Kong-listed Shimao Group – he owns 63.8 per cent of the company – whose market value has plunged 57 per cent in the past year after it defaulted on its debt obligations.
In July, Shimao was unable to sell a huge land portfolio in China the size of 34 football fields despite offering it at a 20 per cent discount to its valuation.
Mr Hui – through his Archstone Investment Group – bought a big slice of Australia’s beef industry in 2017 when it paid about $70 million for advertising doyen Harold Mitchell’s 1.4 million hectare WA portfolio comprising Bulka, Yougawalla and Margaret River stations along with about 45,000 head of cattle.
Mr Hui later added another 1 million hectares to his cattle empire when he bought the Argyle Cattle Company, which comprises Beefwood Park, Shamrock, Moola Bulla and Mount Amhurst Stations.
He is also the majority investor in NSW meat processor and exporter Bindaree Beef Group, a stake he acquired in 2017 for about $120 million.
Mr Hui, formerly known as Xu Rongmao, holds Australian citizenship after studying for an MBA at the University of South Australia in the 1990s. His family lived in Darwin for a period.
The portfolio of cattle stations runs 50,000 breeders. 
The Kimberley Cattle Portfolio spans land within a 350 km radius and runs a herd of 50,000 breeders.
“This business was essentially built around putting together an aggregation of properties that were close enough to work together to create key efficiencies, with potential to develop in a way that would escalate production,” said the portfolio’s general manager, Haydn Sale.
“Over the past seven years we have put in place strategic watering points, fencing, yard, road and accommodation infrastructure to increase carrying capacity and create an entity that does not require management on every property, but can be run from a centralised management group, with teams deployed as needed.”
Water is in abundance throughout the properties, with frontage to the Margaret River, Mary River, Louisa River and Christmas Creek, in addition to extensive underground water resources.
About 210ha have been developed to centre pivot irrigation with approval for an additional 294ha. There’s also a 9,500 mega litre irrigation licence on Shamrock Station from the Broome Sandstone aquifer.
The sale of the Kimberley Cattle Portfolio is being handled LAWD’s Danny Thomas.
“This aggregation is special in that you can breed, background and finish, and the owners have done an excellent job in putting together a significant landholding that can be run as a single entity, including irrigated land to finish stock,” Mr Thomas said.
“It is very rare to find a property in the region at this scale that can so easily pivot between live export to the north and the southern markets.”
The market for large cattle stations has remained buoyant despite a sharp fall in beef prices and returns from farmland slumping to an eight-year low in the 12 months to June, according to the Australian Farmland Index.
Between April and June more than $300 million of Top End cattle stations changed hands, including over $200 million of S. Kidman & Co cattle stations in Queensland and the NT offered by mining magnate Gina Rinehart.
  •   AFR
  • 15 October 2023

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