Wednesday, 27 May 2020 13:10

Van Leeuwen Group farms for sale

Written by  David Anderson
Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen. Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen.

High-profile South Canterbury dairy farmers Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen have put a number of their farms up for sale.

The Van Leeuwen Group runs 13 dairy farms and six dry stock farms in total, but is selling nine of its properties – including 3,509ha of freehold land, irrigation shares and a supply contract to Oceania Dairy.

Colliers International has been appointed by the Van Leeuwen Group to market the farms for sale by way of an ‘international expressions of interest’ campaign.

The van Leeuwens – well known in the dairy sector for their adoption of large robotic milking barns – says they are selling the farms to ramp up further investment in their high-tech barn farming operations. 

The couple were also among a number of other farmers around New Zealand who have suffered from the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, which hit their farms in July 2017. They are currently embroiled in a legal battle with Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in a dispute about compensation. 

They have already been paid out $6.3 million by MPI, but are seeking further compensation for professional consultancy fees, bank charges and assorted other costs. In February, the van Leeuwens won a victory in the High Court after Justice Francis Cooke rejected MPI’s bid to strike out the case and ruled they must be awarded costs. The claim is now before arbitration.

Colliers says prospective buyers have the option to either own and operate the farms outright or buy the farms as a passive investment, with external operational management via a long-term leaseback. 

“This is an incredibly rare opportunity to secure a profitable dairy farming operation at scale,” says Ruth Hodges, national director of rural and agribusiness at Colliers. “The portfolio offers strong projected returns that are expected to be particularly appealing to institutional and corporate investors. The van Leeuwens say it is the right time to sell. 

“We have grown our business substantially over the years and are now looking to pass this legacy on to the next generation. We recently finalised a new vision for the business, which is primarily focused on optimising and growing our robotic barn farming operations.”

The nine farms on sale are traditional, pasture-based farms and non-core support farms.

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