Andrew Forrest. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian.
Andrew Forrest. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian.

Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has bought Harvey Beef in a shock deal believed to be worth about $40 million as he continues to invest in agricultural assets based on China’s dining boom.

Harvey Beef is an iconic WA brand, the State’s biggest beef exporter and the only one with accredited for exports to China.

Mr Forrest has pledged to invest in upgrading the abattoir which employs about 300 people and processes about 145,000 cattle a year.

He is also pushing ahead with plans to open up live cattle exports to China and has huge pastoral land holdings in the Pilbara.

“Following detailed discussions with the Chinese leadership, we are determined to ensure that the Australian agricultural industry’s future in China is just as bright as our mining future,” Mr Forrest said from overseas.

The deal signed in Perth yesterday between his company Minderoo and a Hong-Kong based private equity fund returns Harvey Beef to local hands for the first time in almost a decade.

Another local buyer, the Craig Mostyn Group, had been close to securing Harvey Beef but faced competition from Chinese and Japanese investors.

The Harvey Beef plant about 140km south of Perth is state-of-the-art and has already has capacity to increase output.

“We hope this acquisition will send a strong message of confidence in the future of the industry,” Mr Forrest said.

“To provide confidence to increase supply and make Australia the supplier of choice to meet Asia’s long term food security requirements.”

Harvey Beef is a major supplier to supermarket giant Coles and exports premium WA beef to about 30 countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.

It was founded by Ernest Green in 1919 and remained in family hands until 2005.

Minderoo will take ownership immediately and has no plans to change the current management team.

The West Australian

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