The Kimberley’s Yougawalla Pastoral Company, has found a new owner — Hong Kong billionaire Hui Wing Mau.
The total investment has not been disclosed, but is believed to be worth $70 million.
Mr Hui is the founder of Hong Kong property developer Shimao Group, with projects in Asia and Australia.
And now one of China’s biggest property developers has expanded his interests in the Kimberley cattle industry.
The deal covers 1,390,095 hectares of land across Yougawalla station, Bulka Station, Margaret River Station, agistment leases on four neighbouring indigenous properties, and includes the 45,000 head of cattle.
The pastoral company was first put on the market in 2015, by the Sale family who manage and part-own Yougawalla with advertising mogul Harold Mitchell, and former Seven West Media director Doug Flynn.
Manager Haydn Sale said for him and his wife Jane, it was “business as usual” as they continued to run Yougawalla with no changes made to the current staff.
He said the deal would give the pastoral company a great opportunity to keep developing its cattle herd in the Kimberley.
“We’ve sold to a new Hong-Kong based entity but we are contracted to stay on and run the properties on their behalf, so all the current staff have stayed on,” he said.
“We’ve traditionally been pretty heavily into development, a lot of country we own now still hasn’t got cattle on it and just needs water and fences.
“The new entity is pretty keen to get on and do that.
“We’ll get back to doing what we’ve been doing the last few years — developing and growing the cattle herd and hopefully a playing a role in the Kimberley as we go.”
Mr Sale said after two years on the market, it was a relief to find a suitable buyer for Yougawalla.
“It’s been quite a long process, we originally decided to sell the properties because our major investor had a change of situation,” he said.
“Luckily the property market has been pretty strong so we thought now’s the time.”
He said it took a couple of years mainly because the Kidman process happened in the middle “which sucked a bit of oxygen out of the market” while all the bigger players had a look at that.
“Finding the right people and getting a result took some time but now we’re there it’s great that we’ve got people who want to keep all the Australian managers and people involved to go forward.
“They’re looking to invest pretty substantial sums of money into the stations too, which I think is one of the good things about foreign investment, it can bring some outside capital in to help drive the beef industry in WA.”
Mr Sale said Yougawalla’s subleases on four neighbouring indigenous properties — Louisa Downs, Bohemia Downs, Carranya and Lamboo Stations — were part of the sale.
All four leased properties are next door to the group’s original three Kimberley cattle stations and he said the additional 560,000 hectares of land made the deal even more attractive.
“We have quite a good working relationship with all them,” Mr Sale said.
“They run their own cattle as well and we work together helping them out with costs and management and they help us out with the day to day running of the properties, so we’ve got some employment for them as well.
“That’s been one of the successes of the company over time, to be able to expand our operation into those areas but also help those communities and stations along.
“And those commitments to those communities and subleases will continue.”
The Hui family is affiliated with Archstone Investments, the Chinese company which established Consolidated Australian Pastoral Holdings to undertake the acquisition of four Kimberley stations previously owned by SAWA last year.
The same company also recently acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Bindaree Beef Group in New South Wales for a reported $120 million.
Mr Sale said with beef prices holding strong, the Northern Australian cattle industry was increasingly becoming an attractive opportunity to foreign investors.
“The Kimberley still has huge development potential and I think they saw that,” he said.
“If you invest further in fencing, water, yards and infrastructure, you can run more cattle on the land you’ve got and that obviously makes a better investment.
“As the numbers come up, the price you’ve paid is diluted down on a per head animal basis which means you’ve got more chance of making a more reasonable profit.
“That’s why I think there’s been interest in not only WA but northern Australia in general.”
He said there was a lot of investment from Australian and overseas entrepreneurs.
“It’s an exciting time for the beef industry in the North.”