Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Did A Chinese Gent Buy 705,700 Hectares of Northern Australia?

The Hurun Rich List pegs Ma Xingfa's net worth at $1.5 billion but the Forbes China 400, with a $700 million cutoff. does not have him listed.

The property has 80 kilometers of coastline.
And 40,000 cows.

From The Australian Financial Review:

Wollogorang cattle station is on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Wollogorang cattle station is on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
In the reception area of an unassuming six-storey office block on the outskirts of the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, a small woman is wedged between a large freezer and a pair of scales.  
Surrounded by cabinets displaying a variety of ball bearings, she is weighing, pricing and labelling chunks of beef before placing the parcels neatly back into the freezer.  
The parcels are labelled "Austeak," the only hint this is the headquarters of Australia's newest cattle baron.  
Five floors up, Ma Xingfa, the founder and chairman of Tianma Bearings Group, is tapping away at his Apple computer, which sits atop a desk made of intricately carved wood.  
His office is sparsely furnished and there is no receptionist. A month ago, Ma bought two cattle stations on the Northern Territory and Queensland border for $47 million, an investment he describes as an "experiment" in his first interview since the purchase.  
While Ma is looking to diversify his business operationally and geographically, and Tianma's latest annual report clearly earmarks agriculture as a "growth engine", the chairman still has reservations about Australia. And that's after building up an agricultural portfolio over five years that includes three other cattle stations and two wineries.  
He explains almost as soon as we start talking that his main concerns are local opposition to foreign investment and a lack of adequate infrastructure.  
"I've been to Australia more than a dozen times but I still don't think I have a good understanding of the country so I'm not comfortable making very big investments," he says.  
"All of our investments are relatively small-scale, pilot projects. We are still trying to lay the groundwork for where we go. There are big differences between the two countries, legally and culturally, and while the bilateral trade is a large number overall, there are some unsmooth parts. 
We are taking a cautious approach."  
Ma is a cautious person.  
While he agreed to be interviewed about his recent and widely reported purchase of the Wollogorang and Wentworth stations, a total of 705,700 hectares, he declined to be photographed and was reluctant to give too many details about his background.  
The son of rice paddy farmers from Hangzhou, Ma set up his first ball bearings factory in 1986. By the end of the 1990s, he began pushing his way up the country's rich list as a two-decades long construction and manufacturing boom boosted demand for high speed trains, planes and heavy equipment, all of which needed ball bearings. 
The business peaked in 2009, after China embarked on an infrastructure spending frenzy to shield the local economy from the global financial crisis. At that time, Ma was ranked the country's 123rd richest man, with a fortune estimated at 6.8 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), according to research group Hurun. 
But since then, Ma's fortune has declined in line with the country's manufacturing sector, which has been hit by slowing growth and the shift toward a consumption-led, services-based economy. Ma's last showing on the rich list was in 2012, when he was ranked 628th with a fortune of 2.8 billion yuan....MORE