Mining and pastoral baroness, Gina Rinehart, will merge management of recently acquired Northern Territory beef holdings “Willeroo” and “Aroona” after confirmating Hancock Prospecting’s agriculture division has bought the 171,000-hectare Willeroo Station.
The breeding property, about 100 kilometres west of Katherine on the Victoria Highway, carries about 20,000 head.
Last week it was bought for an undisclosed sum, on a walk-in, walk-out basis (with 19,000 cattle) from Agri International, the Australian arm of big Indonesian lot feeding company Great Giant Livestock (GGL), which sourced cattle for two Sumatran feedlots via the property.
“Willeroo” will be run jointly with the 147,510ha Aroona Station, which the Rinehart empire bought in February from John and Kate McLoughlin, reportedly for about $24 million.
At the time “Aroona” had a carrying capacity of 15,000 head, however Hancock’s management plans have included investing on improvements to lift carrying capacity and operating efficiencies across its fast expanding property portfolio.
We will copy what we have introduced successfully on our other Hancock stations, and are currently rolling out across Kidman properties also.
“We were interested to secure `Willeroo’ because we believe we can add improvements and value to the station,” said Mrs Rinehart, whose family cattle operations date back to some of the first holdings established in North West Australia in the 1800s.
Gina’s broadening footprint
“We will copy what we have introduced successfully on our other Hancock stations, and are currently rolling out across Kidman properties also.”
Hancock’s other northern beef stations include “Helen Springs”, “Riveren and “Inverway” in NT, “Ruby Plains”, “Fossil Downs”, “Liveringa”, “Nerrima” and “Mulga Downs” in Western Australia.
In June Hancock also bought the 8000-head Maydan feedlot at Warwick in Queensland after late last year becoming one of Australia's four biggest beef producers when it acquired most of S. Kidman and Company’s cattle properties for $386.5 million in partnership with China’s Shanghai CRED.
Mrs Rinehart, who chairs Hancock’s business, said “Willeroo” would complement existing northern Australia investments, including assisting with its wet season growing program for the “Riveren-Inverway” aggregation, bought last year.
The aggregation, near the WA border, was also previously being held, briefly, by Indonesian owners, Japfa Santori.
Both this year’s Victoria River region purchases are close to the 3400ha “Phoenix Park”, outside Katherine, bought last year to provide Hancock with an an export beef depot.
Live export plans
“Phoenix Park” will be critical infrastructure in Hancock Agriculture’s live export ambitions with another Chinese partner, Zhejiang Aozhou Cattle Industry Company, which intends to take Top End live exports for processing on Jintang Island, south of Shanghai.
Mrs Rinehart said “Willeroo” and “Aroona” would operate as a combined unit also helping provide better market timing opportunities for some of Hancock’s Kimberley cattle stations.
Recently appointed Hancock Agriculture chief executive officer, David Larkin, said introduction of new technology and cattle welfare programs trialled on other Hancock properties was assisting the company’s beef portfolio to grow.
“It has presented greater tools for management and economies of scale, and an opportunity to increase stock numbers and productivity."
Willeroo’s previous owner, Agri International, had also undertaken more than $4.5m in improvements after buying the holding in 2014, including extensive water, fencing and cattle yard developments, and staff facility upgrades.
“This allowed a significant increase in the carrying capacity of over 40 per cent during its tenure,” said Agri International director, Josep Lay.
He said “Willeroo Station had been a fantastic opportunity for his company’s principals to understand and participate in the northern Australian cattle industry.
Agri International began importing Australian cattle almost 30 years ago for its 35,000-head capacity feedlots.