The hunt is officially on to find a buyer for southern Australia's massive pig and stockfeed business Rivalea.
The nation's biggest piggery operator and pig meat processor has been owned by listed Singaporean food group QAF for almost 20 years, but the parent company wants to focus its efforts on its bakery and food distribution ventures in Asia.
Rivalea Australia accounted for about 15 per cent of the national pig herd last year, breeding about 1 million piglets. It also processed about 26pc of Australia's pig meat, or 1.4m pigs, at its Corowa and Melbourne plants.
Its three southern NSW mills produce about 350,000 tonnes of stockfeed annually for the poultry, pig, dairy, beef and sheep industries under brands such as Optimilk, Eggstra, Grolean and Nutrimax.
However, after recently expanding its piggery sites in southern NSW and central Victoria, spending $8m upgrading its Melbourne processing site's capacity, and installing three on-farm effluent-powered electricity generators, QAF said Rivalea was now of sufficient scale to be "an ideal platform for a new owner with a strong focus on the animal protein segment to take the business to the next level".
QAF has previously considered selling or publicly listing its Australian primary production division, reportedly looking at a $196m price tag back in 2017-18.
Riverlea's farming activities were originally established by the big US agribusiness group Bunge in 1971 around Corowa on the NSW-Victorian border.
Acquired by QAF in 2001, then renamed Rivalea Australia in 2009, the business now employs about 1200 staff and has about 7600 hectares of farmland including a network of 25 properties in the Murray Valley and near Bendigo and in the Victorian Wimmera, carrying about 40,000 breeding sows. Contract producers own 18 of the Riverlea supply farms.
The business produces meat and offal products for the domestic and export markets, including the High Country, Murray Valley, Family Chef and St Bernards brands, and Riverview Farms roasted pork, available ready-cooked in Australian supermarkets.
Last month QAF's half-year results tipped Rivalea was on track to achieve a solid jump in net annual revenue to $404m - up from about $384 in 2019. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were forecast to climb from $21m last year to $38m. However, the company said while its cash position was strong the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was evolving and difficult to predict.
Rivalea's 80pc-owned Melbourne abattoir and further processing subsidiary, Diamond Valley Pork temporarily shut last month, after 23 employees recorded positive to coronavirus.
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