PSP cattle JV puts Queensland aggregation up for sale

PSP’s first investment in Australia’s cattle sector was its stake in HCA, which is disposing the Mt Cooper aggregation to focus on organic production.

Hewitt Cattle Australia, a Queensland-based cattle company backed by Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board, has placed an aggregation up for sale as it refocuses its strategy.

The Mount Cooper aggregation that has been put on the block covers 87,000 ha and has an estimated carrying capacity of 8,500 adult equivalents. It consists of two separate cattle stations and is being offered together or as separate assets, with the option of purchasing 7,000 cattle as part of the deal.

The property is located in the Charters Towers region of far-north Queensland, south of Townsville, and is described as “securely watered” with 13 bores and frontage to major rivers.

HCA is selling the property as it increases its focus on organic beef production, with a source describing the Mount Cooper aggregation to Agri Investor as being in “lighter” grazing country while still of a high quality.

HCA chief executive Mick Hewitt said in a statement: “After many years of successfully operating in the North Queensland region, the time has come to divest the Mount Cooper Aggregation as we continue to expand our focus in regions targeting organic production.

“Given this change in focus, these assets are no longer as strategically relevant to our growing, organic grazing, processing and retailing portfolio.”

The aggregation is known as a breeding property but also has some capacity to be used as part of a cattle backgrounding operation.

Queensland Rural and CBRE Agribusiness have been appointed to sell the aggregation via expression of interest, closing on June 18, 2020.

Queensland Rural agent Peter MacPherson said: “Having had a reasonable 2019-2020 wet season, the divestment of this well-established aggregation affords both local family and institutional operators an excellent opportunity to acquire very well-located breeding country with scale.”

CBRE regional director, agribusiness Danny Thomas said he expected strong interest from all buyer segments thanks to the low interest rate environment and exchange rate settings.

PSP, which had C$168 billion ($119 billion; €110 billion) of assets under management at March 31, 2019, acquired a majority stake in HCA in 2015, its first Australian farmland investment in the cattle sector.

The Canadian pension has continued to expand its interests in Australian agriculture since then, with further investments in livestock, broadacre cropping and irrigated agriculture.