Tattarang raises Australian Agricultural Company stake to 19.49%

The Australian rich-listed Forrest family have acquired AACo shares that put them in a position to expand their agricultural portfolio.

The private investment firm of Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his former partner Nicola Forrest has increased its stake in the ASX-listed Australian Agricultural Company to just below the threshold that would trigger a takeover bid.

On December 28, Perth-based family office Tattarang increased its share in AACo to 19.49 percent, purchasing 6,103,601 shares for A$9,813,271 ($6,558,257; €6,014,132), or about A$1.61 per share.

Once an entity holds 20 percent or more shares in a company, they are required to make a formal takeover offer to acquire the remaining shares.

Should such a takeover process go ahead and prove successful, it would see the publicly listed AACo, one of Australia’s oldest companies, taken private.

AACo is majority owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, with a 52.09 percent stake through his investment company Tavistock Group.

Tattarang declined to comment on its investment strategy or plans regarding AACo.

However, Tattarang’s chief executive officer John Hartman told Agri Investor in 2020 (when he was chief investment officer) that agriculture was a focus for the family office – especially given the Forrest family’s extensive history of farming in Western Australia.

“There are opportunities for continued organic growth in the business and we’re always on the lookout for acquisition targets that fit within our strategic verticals,” Hartman said.

As one of Australia’s largest and oldest agricultural firms, AACo could be a prime candidate to secure such growth.

The company has been in operation since 1824 and currently has a cattle herd of about 433,000 head across Queensland and the Northern Territory.

In the company’s H1 results for FY24, released in November 2023, CEO David Harris said that despite challenging market conditions, the company had shown resilience to report an operating profit of A$30.1 million.

Its total sales revenue of A$167.1 million was an increase of about 2 percent on the previous period.

Tattarang has significantly increased its stake in AACo since becoming a substantial holder with a 5.31 percent share in February 2022.

Its largest leap was about 10 percentage points between May and June 2022, from 7.90 percent to 17.41 percent.

A few months later in November 2022, Tattarang increased its stake to 18.48 percent.

The latest share acquisition puts Tattarang just shy of the 20 percent threshold for a takeover.

Meanwhile, in September 2022, Lewis grew his share in AACo to a majority stake, increasing it from 48.061 to 50.071 percent.

He has since continued to increase his share in small amounts, reaching 51.088 percent in March 2023 and 52.09 percent in September 2023.