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Saudi investor buys mega farm in Australia

An agriculture investment company based in Saudi Arabia has bought its first farm in Australia extending to 200,000 hectares in the western wheatbelt for over AUS$ 60 million.

The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) Australia has announced the acquisition of Baladjie Pty Ltd formally owned by grain baron John Nicoletti. Mr Nicoletti, who also runs 6 John Deere dealerships, decided to exit farming to give him more time to concentrate on the machinery side of his businesses. Including the vast land area, Baladjie also carries a 40,000-head Merino sheep flock and was sold successfully following non-objection approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Although the end sale price wasn’t officially disclosed, sources close to the sale reported the deal was made for over AUS$ 60 million (US$ 42.65 million).

Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) Australia has announced the acquisition of Baladjie Pty Ltd. Photo: SALIC
Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) Australia has announced the acquisition of Baladjie Pty Ltd. Photo: SALIC

First acquisition in Australia

SALIC KSA CEO Matthew Jansen, said: “The acquisition of Baladjie is an important step for SALIC as we continue to build our global footprint in a meaningful way. It is our first acquisition in Australia as well as our first investment in sheep production.” SALIC’s head of production agriculture investments, William England, said that the local team will build on the legacy of John Nicoletti with plans to manage the livestock and grain production enterprise for the long term with a focus on sustainability, profitability, environmental responsibility and support for the local rural community.

Land is based on over 30 farms

SALIC Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of SALIC KSA, a Riyadh-based investment company 100% owned by sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF). The company says it aims to be a world-class food security focused agribusiness investment company, making sizeable, meaningful and scalable investments while ensuring a balanced risk optimised portfolio. This farm sale represents the biggest offering of a single parcel of broadacre farming land ever to be sold in Australia and was handled by CBRE head of agribusiness Danny Thomas.

Included in the sale are 76,575 ha of freehold land, of which 62,768 ha are arable, plus 127,018 ha of leasehold land, of which 95,040 ha are arable, which is being assigned to the purchaser. The land is based on over 30 farms located at John’s home town of Merredin and also at Bodallin, Moorine Rock, Westonia, Southern Cross, Mukinbudin, Bullfinch and Marvel Loch, plus Daisy Downs at Mullewa.

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More attention to John Deere dealerships

Although Mr Nicoletti is giving up farming he says he is certainly not retiring and is going to put more energy into his 6 John Deere dealerships situated throughout Australia’s wheatbelt and the company headquarters in Perth. Mr Nicoletti said: “If I was 10 years younger I wouldn’t be doing this. I have a son and 2 daughters and all of them already have plenty of land. I have 110 people working at my John Deere dealerships and the headquarters in Perth. I want to give that side of the business more attention,” he said.