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Masfen becomes a South Island corporate farmer

By Hugh Stringleman

Friday 8th August 2003

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Corporate investor Peter Masfen has spent a large but undisclosed sum buying a half-share of the giant Southland and Canterbury-based sheep and beef farming operation, Mount Linton Ltd.

Mr Masfen has sizeable personal wealth, partly founded on Corporate Investments and Montana Wines, and believes in investing in the New Zealand primary sector rather than offshore.

The extended McGregor family, which has owned Mt Linton for 100 years, has been paid out with the Masfen injection, leaving former controlling shareholder Alistair McGregor and his immediate family in partnership with the Masfens. He is reportedly delighted that a New Zealand investor was found with the tens of millions of dollars required. Mr McGregor is away overseas at present.

The ownership move in one of New Zealand's biggest pastoral companies is reassuring for the South Island after the death recently of one of the biggest corporate investors in agriculture, Howard Paterson.

Mr McGregor came close to death himself as a result of a car accident more than a decade ago but recovered to preside over recent major development and expansion, with a small advisory board of directors.

General manager of farming since that time has been Paul McCarthy, who now becomes chief executive of Mt Linton.

Mt Linton runs 80,000 sheep and produces 400,000kg of wool annually. It also has 3000 Angus cattle and 300ha of farm forestry. Eight properties include the home station on the slopes of the Takitimu range in western Southland, which carries over 50,000 sheep and nearly 2000 cattle, two breeding properties for recorded Romney and Texel sheep and Angus cattle, two lowland finishing properties near Invercargill, and some owned and leased finishing farms in Canterbury, where grain and grass seed production also takes place.

Developments in recent years have included franchising and sharefarming agreements, plus branded meat and wool production through Alliance Group, Five Star feedlot and Wools Services International.

The small board of directors will be Mr Masfen and his son Rolf, Mr McGregor and his nominee Angus Bradshaw, the former head of the Rural Bank, and subsequently rural banking for the National Bank, and the independent chairman, the northern Waikato sheepfarmer and former chairman of Affco meat company, Peter Jackson.

Mr Masfen said he had been looking around for a substantial primary sector investment in New Zealand for some time and was attracted by Southland's freedom from drought.

Mt Linton was a large-scale integrated farming operation with plenty of opportunity for further development, he said.

Although some of Mt Linton is deer fenced, Mr Masfen does not have plans to move into deer farming immediately, nor into dairying.

He favours lamb production, in which New Zealand has a natural advantage over other producing countries, where sheep numbers are falling.

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