MATTHEW CRANSTON North Queensland Register 24 June 2013
THE Supreme Court of Queensland has issued a warrant for the seizure of two cattle stations at Hughenden in central Queensland, after an application from receivers PPB representing the ANZ Banking Group.
PPB has been given until next month to take control of Casterton Station and Burslem Station, stoking fears that more receiverships in the struggling cattle industry in Queensland and Northern Territory could be on the way.
A warrant notice issued on June 13 obtained by The Australian Financial Review said the respondents David and Alexander Browning were restrained from entering the properties "until seven days after the date of completion of any sale of Burslem Station and Casterton Station".
The warrant follows a prolonged battle between the farmers, who were unavailable for comment, and the bank. The bank's spokesman said: "Taking possession of a property is always a resort when all other avenues have been exhausted."
Numerous cattle stations have gone into receivership in the past 12 months. ANZ had the 480,000-hectare Maryfield and Mountain Valley stations in the Northern Territory placed into receivership last year. National Australia Bank followed suit, placing the 280,000 hectare Killarney Station run by Wallco Pastoral in receivership.
Killarney has since been refinanced, one of the shareholders making a capital injection to take the station back out of receivership.
PPB's Greg Quinn, who is handling the Hughenden crisis, did not return calls but earlier this year forecast a greater percentage of distressed farms would fall into the hands of receivers.
"Many of these farming companies are heading towards a cliff," Mr Quinn said. "There needs to be significant re-engineering and recapitalisation and it will come in three ways. The first is deleveraging, the second is new partnership equity and the third is better succession planning," he said.
The proportion of restructured debt has increased from around 6 per cent in 2000-01 to around 9 per cent in 2011-12 for farms, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' March agricultural update. Lending to agriculture stood at $66.2 billion as at June 2012.
ANZ head of agribusiness Mark Bennett said this month that it was not enough for farmers to rely on their competent track record to keep them surviving, as they also needed to determine how to plan for two or three years of unusually low prices.