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The two farms at the heart of the water buyback scandal - Kia Ora and Clyde in Qld - have been sold, along with Eastern Australia Agriculture. However the structure of the deal means the actual price paid may never be made public. #transparency #auspol #watergate
1. The two major Queensland cotton farms at the centre of the water buybacks dispute, Kia Ora and Clyde, have been sold to a Canadian-based private equity investment firm, however the structure of the deal means the price paid for the properties may never be revealed publicly.
2. Under the deal, Fiera Comox, an arm of Canada's Fiera Capital, has bought the properties by buying the company which owns them, Eastern Australia Agriculture, with the deal settling on December 19 last year.
3. Because EAI is registered in the Cayman Islands, which does not have a public companies ownership register, it’s unclear who the owners or directors of EAI were at the time of the sale, but the sale proceeds will have flown to the owners and and ultimate beneficiaries of EAI.
4. EAA and EAI have been in the headlines because EAA sold $80m of water rights to the Federal Government in 2017, in a deal which numerous experts have said was very good for EAA but very poor for taxpayers.
5. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor co-founded EAI in 2007 and was a director of that company until at least the 2013 financial year, and he was a director of EAA in 2008 and 2009. However he has said he ceased all relationship to those companies before becoming MP in 2013.
6. That was well before the controversial 2017 water deal.
7. Typically, when a property changes hands, the transaction will be recorded in government lands titles records with details including the details of the buyer, the seller, the price paid, the stamp duty paid, and other information such as their size and zoning.
8. However because Kia Ora and Clyde are still owned by EAA - it's EAA that has been sold and it’s EAA which now has a different owner - it is understood such information is not required to be filed with land titles registers.
9. The sale of the properties (and EAA) was brokered by CBRE's Danny Thomas, who along with CBRE's Duncan McCulloch, announced a 30-day expressions of interest campaign in March last year, with a closing date of April, 12.
10. Both men declined to comment yesterday. It is understood a number of representatives of Fiera Comox flew from Canada to tour the properties after expressions of interest closed, and that there were a number of bidders for the properties.
11. Before the latest sales campaign, EAA had been offering Kia Ora and Clyde for sale for several years, with EAA initially seeking $180m. It was reported EAA had been in negotiations to sell the properties for $130m in 2017, but those talks also did not proceed.
12. EAA, and so the two properties, were bought by Fiera Comox Global Agriculture open-end fund GP Inc, which is a fund created by Fiera Comox in 2017.
13. Under the deal, a new Australian company was created (in September last year), called Eastern Australia Cropping Pty Ltd. That company (EAC) bought EAA. The ultimate holding company of EAC (and so EAA) is the Fiera Comox Global Agriculture Open-end Fund.
14. More to come.
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