Harvard University puts A$120m Australian farming portfolio up for sale

The American university’s endowment is selling further assets after offloading almond and cotton farms to Hancock Agricultural Investment Group earlier this year.

The Harvard University Endowment Fund has placed a portfolio of mixed farming assets in New South Wales on the market with sale expectations of A$120 million ($86 million; 73 million).

The 13,652 hectare Western Rosella portfolio is located in the Riverina region of NSW, comprising three properties located within a 95 km radius of each other: Moora, a 524 ha almond orchard; Euroley, a 2,419 ha property with 376 ha planted to almonds; and Newmarket, a 10,707 ha property with multiple irrigation systems and substantial on-site water storage.

All three properties come with varying water entitlements, with potential for the further development of greenfield land on some of the properties, and capacity for dryland cropping and livestock grazing too.

The reasons behind the sale were not disclosed.

The Harvard University Endowment Fund held investments worth $40.9 billion at the end of June 2019, according to its latest financial report. The endowment achieved a return of 6.9 percent for the fiscal year ending June 2019. It has an 8 percent allocation to real estate and a 4 percent allocation to natural resources.

Harvard sold two contiguous almond and cotton farms to Hancock Agricultural Investment Group earlier this year, in a deal worth more than A$120 million. Newmarket was initially included in that listing but was not sold at the time.

Demand for permanent plantings in the southern Murray-Darling Basin is still high, with HAIG’s purchase of Mooral almond orchard from Rural Funds Group in August for A$98 million a sign that prices for high-quality asses with water entitlements remain strong.

CBRE Agribusiness’s Danny Thomas has been appointed to sell the Western Rosella portfolio either in one line or as separate properties.

Thomas described the portfolio as a “significant opportunity” that was likely to attract institutional interest.

“The portfolio offers an excellent agricultural offering for the region that will be of interest to investors, both domestic and international,” he said in a statement. Expressions of interest close on November 19.

Harvard Management Company executives launched Solum Partners in early October, an investment management firm focused on real assets in the agriculture and food production industry. The firm will be led by former HMC managing Ddrector and head of natural resources Colin Butterfield, who now serves as CEO of Solum.