Property

Cobran lists as latest Westchester offering

Liz Wells, October 12, 2021

Cobran Station features underground water entitlements and licence to pump from the Murrumbidgee River. Photo: Inglis Rural Property

INSTITUTIONAL investor Westchester has listed Cobran Station for the second time in three years to put one of the Riverina’s biggest irrigated holdings on the market.

Situated between Hay and Carrathool and fronting the Murrumbidgee River, Cobran has been owned by Westchester since it was purchased in the wind-up of Twynam Agriculture in 2012,

The property is leased by NSW cotton grower and ginner Auscott until early next year.

Cobran covers 14,149 hectares, and includes 5748ha of flood irrigation, with scope to redevelop a further 2500ha.

Irrigation comes from river and groundwater entitlements, and the property has a total water-storage capacity of 10,600 megalitres across three reservoirs.

This water security enables Cobran to grow irrigated winter crops including wheat and canola, and summer crops including cotton and corn.

Cobran’s average annual cotton production over the past seven years has been around 30,000 bales with a yield of 12 bales/ha.

Improvements include machinery sheds, workshops, staff housing and grain storage, and the historic Cobran Homestead.

Cobran is listed for sale through Inglis Rural Property via an expressions-of-interest campaign which closes 17 November, and is being marketed as having significant value-add potential.

The property is seen as suitable for permanent plantings such as almonds or walnuts, or a vertically integrated sheep or beef feedlot.

Cobran comprises numerous land titles and three independent pump stations and supply channels from the Murrumbidgee River, all of which make it suitable for subdivision.

It is being offered for sale as a single entity, or in three separate parts, and significant water entitlements are for sale either with or without the land.

“The vendor has provided clear instructions to offer Cobran Station with or without the significant river and groundwater water entitlements; I cannot emphasise this enough,” Inglis Rural Property sales manager Sam Triggs said.

Westchester in Australia CEO Matt Bull was responsible for purchasing Cobran.

“What attracted us to Cobran 10 years ago was the scale it provided our portfolio at the time, coupled with the opportunity to further develop the land to increase production in an area/region which we felt had massive potential for a diverse range of agricultural enterprises,” Mr Bull said.

“Our organisation thought that the opportunity in the Lower Murrumbidgee Valley was going to be similar to what had been experienced in California, only decades behind and on a smaller-
scale.”

The valley in recent years has seen infrastructure built to process cotton, almonds and other commodities, and local services develop to support what Mr Bull said was “huge growth in annual and permanent crop production throughout the region”.

He said this supported the case for a new owner to capitalise on this recent investment, and/or consider developing the property to further enhance productivity.

“The property has been very well managed, with a focus on cotton production, by the Auscott and now the AFF farming companies, which is reflected in their operational performance, but also
the continuation of the lease.”

“Under our standard investment strategy, we would normally continue to lease a property like this for another 10 years, and/or look to further value-add by developing the land.

“Unfortunately, the investment entity which owns Cobran does not have additional capital available to continue developing this property to a higher-value and more intensive use.

“The existing lease is also about to expire, which opens a rare window of opportunity within a long-term lease model to consider selling a property of this size and scale.”

Cobran is located between Hay and Carrathool in the NSW Riverina. Photo: Inglis Rural Property

Cobran is the third large-scale holding in the eastern Australian cropping region that has been listed by Westchester since last spring.

Its 4174ha Southern Riverina Aggregation listed last September with Inglis Rural Property, and Westchester in November announced its seven farms had been sold to local family farming interests.

On southern Queensland’s Darling Downs, Westchester’s 4392ha Prairie Aggregation in the Jondaryan district went a similar way.

It listed in March with JLL and by July had sold to six different local owner-operators.

Westchester is based in the United States, and its parent is Nuveen, which invests funds on behalf of US Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund, or TIAA-CREF, and others.

Its Australian holdings are located primarily in NSW and Western Australia, and it also owns country in Victoria and Queensland.

Grain Central understands Westchester leases out most of its country to independent growers, but farms some of it through arrangements with management companies.

Its most recent reported purchase was Bellaranga, a 9958ha property at Morawa in WA’s Geraldton zone.

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