Wellard plans on sale of abattoir

Rueben HaleCountryman
Frankland sheep producer Richard Coole.
Camera IconFrankland sheep producer Richard Coole. Credit: Bob Garnant

Troubled live exporter Wellard is selling its Beaufort River Meats business.

Countryman can confirm at least one WA company and two other buyers have looked at the abattoir and meat-processing facility near Kojonup.

Wellard bought the business in September 2012.

The sale is the latest attempt by Wellard to improve its position after a horror past year.

The company, which was valued on the Australian Securities Exchange at $556 million when it listed a year ago, has tumbled to a worth of about $80 million.

The company’s share price has fallen from more than $1 to close at 22¢ earlier this week after investors fled the stock following profit downgrades, which were triggered by mechanical problems in Wellard’s carriers, shipping delays and high cattle prices.

In November, Wellard was reportedly chasing $40 million each for its ships MV Ocean Swagman and the MV Ocean Outback.

Beaufort River Meats, which industry insiders say is worth between $7 million and $10 million, employs about 100 people and has a capacity of about 2500 head of sheep a day for the local and export markets.

News of the sale came as Wellard announced on Friday that it had bought a pre-export quarantine facility in western Victoria.

Wellard’s general manager for China, Bernie Brosnan, said the acquisition was to support the start of the slaughter/feeder live cattle trade to the Chinese market it has planned for coming months.

Wellard plans to start exporting slaughter cattle to China between March and June.

The first shipments are expected to involve about 3000 cattle, each weighing more than 500kg.

Meanwhile, Frankland River sheep producer Richard Coole said he hoped the business would be purchased by a new player and not amalgamated into an existing WA business. Mr Coole, who sells much of his sheep through the abattoir, said it was only one of a handful of world-class livestock processing facilities in WA.

“I have always found that Beaufort River Meats was extremely well run and conveniently located to a large number of WA sheep producers,” he said.

“The State only has seven world-standard meat-processing facilities and if this one is purchased by one of the existing companies, my fear will be that it would have a negative impact on competition and transparency in the market.

“I’m not concerned whether it’s a local or an overseas buyer, just as long as they are committed to working towards adding more value to the industry.”

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