John Nicoletti puts his Australian mega farm up for sale

By: Chris McCullough

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A Western Australian farmer who also runs six John Deere dealerships has put his massive 200,000-hectare farming enterprise up for sale

John Nicoletti in front of a John Deere tractor
John Nicoletti in front of a John Deere tractor
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A Western Australian farmer who also runs six John Deere dealerships has put his massive 200,000-hectare farming enterprise up for sale.

John Nicoletti from Merredin in Australia’s wheatbelt has decided to exit farming at 64 years old to give him more time to concentrate on the machinery side of his businesses. 

It is one of Australia’s biggest arable farms and has just been put on the market with a hefty price tag between AUS$75 million and AUS$85 million (US$56m and US$64m).

This farm sale represents the biggest offering of a single parcel of broadacre farming land ever to be sold in Australia and is being handled by CBRE head of agribusiness Danny Thomas.

Included in the sale is 76,575ha of freehold land, of which 62,768ha is arable, plus 127,018ha of leasehold land, of which 95,040ha is arable, all to be assigned to the purchaser.

The land is based on more than 30 farms located at Nicoletti’s home town of Merredin and also at Bodallin, Moorine Rock, Westonia, Southern Cross, Mukinbudin, Bullfinch and Marvel Loch, plus Daisy Downs at Mullewa.

Included with the sale is a flock of 50,000 merino ewes plus progeny, which Nicoletti has built up over a number of years. It also includes an extensive list of fit-for-purpose, near-new equipment, such as 14 headers, 12 seeders, seven sprayers, 13 large tractors and seven smaller tractors, plus four speed tillers.

There are also around 25 dwellings in the sale plus a silo complex with 15,000 metric tonnes of vertical storage adjacent to CBH at Merredin.

One of the Nicoletti paddocks up for grabs

This is not the first time Nicoletti has featured in the news regarding a farm sale. Three years ago he sold 70,000ha for $36 million (US$27m) to an Asian businessman to pay off some debts that had mounted after a string of poor harvest seasons.

A 10-year lease-back agreement for that land was put in place between the buyer – Hong Kong-based Chinese-owned, CK Life Sciences – and Nicoletti. The remaining seven years will be assigned to the buyers in the current sale as part of the leasehold portion.

Nicoletti says that despite giving up farming, he is certainly not retiring and is keen to put more energy into his John Deere dealerships business, which is scattered throughout Australia’s wheatbelt.

"I’m 64 going on 65. If I was 10 years younger I wouldn’t be doing this. I have one son and two daughters and all of them already have plenty of land," he says.

"I feel the time is right to exit farming. Having spoken to a number of people around the globe, the conclusion is that there is currently a lot of money to deploy to agriculture now.

"Agriculture has a bit of a flavour to it now so I decided now is the right time. I don’t have to sell but it’s all about timing. Let’s see if it sells or not," he says.

Nicoletti’s John Deere dealership business is where he is turning his focus.

With the company’s headquarters based in Perth, Nicoletti has more than 100 employees.

"I have 110 people working at my six John Deere dealerships and I want to give that side of the business more attention.

"There are a further 25 people working full time on the farms as well as additional seasonal staff. Some of them have been with me a long time. I have been successful but only because I surrounded myself with good people to work with. I also want to make sure the staff will be well supported by any new buyer."

According to the sales agent Danny Thomas, this is a unique opportunity for a buyer to step into a going concern operation of a large scale. 

"This is a unique offering of scale for mixed farming in Australia. At over 200,000 hectares or 500,000 acres, this is a world-class asset offering an incoming purchaser the ability to optimise operations and influence price while stepping into a genuine going-concern operation complete with experienced personnel, fit-for-purpose plant and equipment and 50,000 merino ewes.

"We think it will be eagerly sought by a number of larger institutions or corporations," he adds.

"I am sure there is a buyer out there for the farm," Nicoletti says. "It doesn’t matter who I sell to but it won’t necessarily be to the highest bidder. I want to make sure the buyer is the right buyer for the land and district."

Nicoletti says planting will go ahead as normal this year in preparation for a new buyer.

The selling agents are actively promoting this massive farm for sale internationally in the hope of finding a global buyer to take the business forward.

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