Peter and Jane Hughes have splashed out a figure believed to be north of $180 million to buy the 438,000-hectare Miranda Downs in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria, setting a new record for a single pastoral holding as the agricultural sector sees a wave of investment demand amid strong trading conditions.
Privately-owned beef company Stanbroke Pastoral, owned by the Menegazzo family, put the property to the market in April with expectations of about $150 million.
It was offered with 55,000 head of cattle – valued at around $80 milllion – and a 6,000 megalitre water licence from the Gilbert River.
Record low interest rates have combined with strong seasonal conditions and elevated prices stemming from international demand for beef and Australian produce to create a heated investment market.
The Australian Farmland Index showed total annual returns from prime grazing properties hit a record 30% last year, and they remained at a high 25% over the March quarter. Capital values were up by over 15%.
The purchase price of Miranda Downs surpasses the $104 million paid by a syndicate featuring South Australia’s Jumbuck Pastoral Co. for Wave Hill and Cattle Creek Stations in the Northern Territory’s Victoria River District.
The new owners of Miranda Downs have a fortune of over $700 million and own multiple properties in central Queensland and the Northern Territory through the Hughes Pastoral Company, Georgina Pastoral and Nebo Beef, continuing a family involvement in the sector that can be traced back to the 1870s.
Their existing holdings had a capacity for 200,000 head of cattle.
Their purchase comes as mining magnate Gina Rinehart shops around a $300 portfolio of cattle stations and livestock spanning 1.876 million hectares in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, while prominent retail real estate player Brett Blundy has just offered a pair of Northern Territory stations to the market with expectations of around $230 million.
Meanwhile, Tasmania has just seen its biggest rural sale in living memory, with sixth-generation cattle and sheep farmer and wind farm developer Peter Downie buying Stonehouse Grazing in Lemont for $46 million.
Rabobank’s latest quarterly Rural Confidence Survey showed almost 90% of Australian farmers are expecting the “generally excellent” business conditions currently being experienced in the agricultural sector to either continue or improve over the year ahead.
Good rainfall has aided pasture growth and, with an above-average rainfall outlook, has reinvigorated producer demand, according to the Asian Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles.