Last year, Gina Rinehart claimed the position of Australia’s cattle queen; now her agribusiness ambition is firmly international, with plans under way to develop the nation’s live cattle trade into a $2 billion industry.
The owner of Hancock Pastoral — and Australia’s richest person, worth an estimated $19.4bn — is preparing to sign a deal laying groundwork to ship up to 800,000 cattle a year for slaughter and processing in China, in a move which could double the value of the nation’s live export trade. That trade is currently worth about $1.5bn.
It follows a period of expansion for Hancock in the cattle industry after Ms Rinehart teamed up last year with Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co in a $365 million takeover of S. Kidman & Co.
Her latest deal, with China’s New Hope Group, to be set out in a memorandum to be signed next Sunday, will aid the Chinese company’s ambitions to invest $1bn of its own cash pile by 2020.
The Kidman deal made Ms Rinehart one of Australia’s three largest beef producers, adding 10 cattle stations covering 1.3 per cent of the country’s land mass to her portfolio. She now owns more than 300,000 cattle and sells about 150,000 head a year.
But her ambitious Chinese blueprint would mean a ramp-up of ownership, as well as sourcing cattle from other producers.
It would see cattle shipped from the three northern Australian ports of Broome, Darwin and Townsville to Zhejiang’s island port of Zhou Shan, south of Shanghai. New Hope will build new feedlot, quarantine and meat-processing facilities in the specially-approved Free Trade Zone for Australian agriculture and food exports to China.
The proposal was confirmed in principle to The Australian by Hancock Pastoral’s business development manager and former NT chief minister Adam Giles.
By SUE NEALES