Cootamundra Oilseeds parent signs deal to fund CQ plant

Emma Alsop, March 8, 2024

Cootamundra Oilseeds plant at Cootamundra on the south-west slopes of NSW has recently doubled its crush capacity.

AUSTRALIAN Oilseed Investments, the company behind Cootamundra Oilseeds, has finalised a US$190-million merger deal with United States “blank cheque company” EDOC Acquisitions Corporation.

It is expected to provide investment support for AOI’s Central Queensland crushing plant, which is touted as key to expanding the region’s oilseed-crop production, and will see the company’s total Australian crush capacity quadruple to 160,000 tonnes.

The new entity is expected to become the largest cold-pressed oil and meal producer in the Asia-Pacific region.

The business arrangement will see EDOC merge with AOI for $190M, minus debts and other liabilities, and form a subsidiary under the new Australian Oilseeds Holdings entity.

Under this banner, the operation will move forward with an initial public offering on the NASDAQ under the code COOT.

Following the merger, AOI director and Cootamundra Oilseeds managing director Gary Seaton  will become the chief executive officer and chair of AOH.

According to documents filled with the US Securities and Exchange Comission, Mr Seaton will retain 75pc of AOH, with the entity’s headquarters to be Cootamundra.

AOI chief financial officer Bob Wu will continue in the role with AOH.

“This is an incredible milestone for the entire Australian Oilseeds team,” Mr Seaton said in a statement.

“Upon the closing of this transaction, and our commencing trading as a publicly traded company, investors will have the opportunity to invest in Australian Oilseeds’ growth and mission to become a global leader in our market of providing chemical free non-GMO feed ingredients into the food supply chain as we continue to provide a healthier option for all consumers on a larger scale.”

AOI’s key investment is the Cootamundra Oilseeds crushing facility in southern New South Wales, from which the company earned most of its revenue, reported at about $29M for the year ending June 2023.

The company also owns a sales-and-marketing arm, Good Earth Oils, which distributes and promotes cold-pressed canola oil produced at Cootamunda.

Mr Seaton is also the managing director and primary owner of Energreen Nutrition, a stockfeed supplier, but is not a subsidiary of AOI.

CQ crush ambitions

Under AOH, the company will push forward plans to construct a multi-oilseed crushing plant near Emerald.

Estimated to cost A$25M, AOI said: “The facility will produce edible oil feedstocks to meet the growing Asia-Pacific market, and bio-diesel feedstock to fuel the renewable energy revolution”.

The company currently expects construction to be completed by March 2025 and was initially hoping to start the build last year.

The facility will have a maximum total oilseed-crushing capacity of 200t per day along with capabilities to bleach and deodorise 50t of oil per day.

In a document filed with the SEC, AOI said it believed Qld can support a “$1B oilseed processing and value addition base industry” to rival NSW and Victoria.

“Given the capacity and strength of the Qld oilseed growing industry, and the commercial benefits stemming from the efficient integration of processing and growing operations, this project will take the first step in reviving the oilseed industry in Central Queensland and help to catalyse Australia’s bio-futures sector,” the document said.

According to AOI, CQ can annually grow up to 65,000-70,000t of oilseeds, primarily cottonseed and sunflower seed.

In the early 2000s, the region planted more than 80,000ha of sunflowers, and more currently imports 30-40,000t of sunflower oil per year.

AOI has predicted that it would need growers to supply sunflower seeds from up to 2000ha to support the project over the next two years.

Cootamundra expansion

SEC filings also revealed that the Cootamundra facility had recently undergone a major expansion, doubling annual cold-press capacity from 40,000t to 80,000t.

Construction commenced in June 2023, with the expansion becoming fully operational last month.

In addition to facility expansion, AOI also flagged that it was in “ongoing discussions with government agencies in Australia to expand its farmland lease substantially”.

AOI was formed in 2012 by Mr Seaton’s JSKS Enterprises and Betar Investments, owned by Michael Betar.

Mr Betar formally left the company in 2019, before the merger AOI was mostly owned by JSKS, with 70pc share, and investment firm KGV Global FZE, owning about 20pc.

Also 30 farmers are listed as minority shareholders and will continue to be investors after the deal is formalised.

The deal reportedly commenced after AOI team were introduced to EDOC representatives in August 2022 with an initial merger agreement signed four months later.

Currently AOI produces cold pressed organic food-grade oils and vegetable protein meals from canola, sunflower, soybean, safflower, linseed and olive crops.

The company supplies all of Good Earth Oils’ branded edible oils, and has bulk contracts with customers including Riverina Oils & Bio Energy and Energreen.

Costco Australia is also a major distributor for AOI products, with the company needing to establish a new packaging line at Cootamundra to meet the increased demand.

EDOC Acquisition Corporation is a blank check company, meaning it has been established for the purpose of effecting a merger, share exchange, asset acquisition, share purchase or other similar business combination.

The company is sponsored by an extensive network of physician entrepreneurs across over 30 medical specialties in leading medical institutions.


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