Canadian fund launches bid for Webster

Canadian fund launches bid for Webster

Cotton
Almonds are a key part of Webster's portfolio.

Almonds are a key part of Webster's portfolio.

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Canada's relentless appetite for Australian agribusiness continues, with PSP Investments launching a bid for Webster Limited.

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CANADIAN investors' obsession with Australian agriculture continues with agribusiness Webster Limited the latest to attract an offer from Canadian buyers.

Fund manager PSP Investments, a public service pension fund, has put in an offer for Webster that values the diversified agribusiness at $854 million.

It has sent shares in Webster Limited soaring, up 66 cents, or 51 per cent, to $1.93.

The takeover proposal comes about a month after Ruralco shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of a $469 million takeover by Canadian fertiliser giant Nutrien - which already owns the Landmark brand in Australia.

Canadian pension funds, such as the Ontario Teachers Fund, have also been active buyers of Australian farmland in recent years.

Webster has encountered controversy around its cotton operations following reports that received money from a government water infrastructure scheme that allowed it to expand its irrigation capacity.

Along with its cotton business it also operates almond and walnut operations in NSW and Tasmania , a broadacre cropping enterprise and a livestock business.

A portfolio of water entitlements is also an important part of the business.

Webster, which has significant holdings in far western NSW, has been hit hard by the ongoing drought, with net profit dropping 46pc to $2.1 million in its half year results earlier in the year.

For its part, PSP Investments has been drawn to Websters, which it describes as a 'high class asset'.

Marc Drouin, PSP Investments managing director said Webster was complementary to the company's existing business, which has over 57pc of its agricultural and timber investments in Australasia.

"The Webster acquisition is highly complementary to our existing joint ventures with on-the-ground operating partners in Australia," Mr Drouin said.

"We see this investment as a unique avenue to scale our Australian investments in each of permanent crops, row crops and livestock."

The story Canadian fund launches bid for Webster first appeared on Farm Online.

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