Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has acquired Harvey Beef, Western Australia’s largest beef processor and the state’s only accredited exporter to China.
Mr Forrest’s company Minderoo announced the acquisition on Friday afternoon.
The move has killed off speculation from earlier this year that the family-owned Craig Mostyn Group would snap up the iconic Western Australian brand.
Minderoo plans to invest in upgrading Harvey Beef facilities to increase capacity to meet growing domestic and international demand, with a focus on building ties to the Chinese market.
Harvey Beef, which operates a plant 140 kilometres south of Perth, employs about 300 people.
“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 in a statement.
“We hope this acquisition will send a strong message of confidence in the future of the industry, … to provide confidence to increase supply and make Australia the supplier of choice to meet Asia’s long-term food security requirements.”
Minderoo’s chief operating officer Grant Vernon said Harvey Beef’s export license for China was part of the attraction.
“This is part of our strategy for expansion of Western Australian agriculture, which will really benefit producers and hopefully the entire industry,” he said.
“Obviously the success Andrew has had through Fortescue Metals Group in expanding markets such as the Chinese market, we’ve got the opportunity through contacts to really grow the business.”
Mr Vernon said the sale would give employees certainty for the future.
“It’s back in West Australian hands, and back in the hands of a West Australian family which is, you know, even a greater story,” he said.
“We’ve been talking to the staff down at Harvey Beef today and you can see the sparkle in their eyes that this removes probably what’s been an uncertain time for them, and gives them that confidence that they’ve got a family that’s really committed to the business.”
Mr Vernon said Minderoo would also like to expand into the live export trade, but was mindful of animal welfare concerns.
“We see huge opportunities for expansion in both live export and in beef product, that’s been processed and boxed,” he said.
“We see opportunities for expansion in both and we think that’s going to be good for the entire industry.”
Harvey Beef exports to dozens of countries including China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and the United States.
Mr Forrest said he had always been a firm believer and supporter of the Australian agricultural industry, and he hoped the acquisition would send a strong message of confidence in the future.
The former major shareholder was Pacific Alliance Group.
The Harvey Beef facility processes 145,000 cattle per year and nearly 70 per cent of its products are exported overseas.
It was founded by Ernest Green in 1919 and has supplied Coles since 2012.