Picture: 123RF/NUTNUCHIT PHUTSAWAGUNG
Picture: 123RF/NUTNUCHIT PHUTSAWAGUNG

Newly formed agricultural giant Acorn Agri & Food (AAF), estimated to be worth R4.3bn-R4.6bn, has pushed its JSE listing to the second half of 2020 as it tweaks its portfolio.

AAF was formed in May by the merger of Somerset West-based agribusiness investor Acorn Agri and Caledon-based agricultural services group Overberg Agri.

This new hybrid agribusiness, which has African Rainbow Capital and Sanlam Private Wealth as key backers, initially slated a JSE listing "in the near future" if conditions were favourable.

On Monday AAF CEO Andre Uys argued the group would need to tackle a few issues before applying for a JSE listing.

He said AAF would want to sell off its remaining minority holding in Pioneer Foods, invest surplus cash and improve profit flows at a couple of under-performing businesses.

"We won’t do a JSE listing unless we are 100% ready, and we’d like to be in great shape when we pursue a main board listing."

Uys said AAF did not need additional capital at this point, but conceded a listing would help share trading liquidity. "Given the investment pipeline, additional capital would likely only be required by 2020."

The JSE only hosts one genuine agribusiness investment counter in the PSG Group, controlled by Zeder Investments, which has a market capitalisation of about R9.3bn.

Unlike Zeder, which has a handful of mainstay investments in Pioneer Foods, Capespan, Zaad and Kaap Agri, AAF is a more diversified span of operational agribusinesses and strategic investments.

Interests include dried fruit businesses Montagu and Grassroots, fuel distribution specialist Moov, grain storage services, a retail offering, mechanisation equipment, financial services, packaging solutions as well as holding investments in Boltfast (steel fasteners), Bontebok Limeworks and the Bredasdorp Abattoir. There is also a 99% stake in ACG Fruit, a 35% stake in Lesotho Milling and a holding of 11.1% on Port Elizabeth-based agribusiness BKB.

Uys said the enlarged AAF agribusiness was well positioned to snag new opportunities in the agriculture and food sectors as well as in the fuel and energy industries.

He said value could also be unlocked by combining certain of AAF’s operational units.

Last week AAF released year to end-February results, which for all intents and purposes reflected the operational performance of Overberg Agri.

Revenue, driven by acquisitions, more than doubled to R6.4bn with gross profit up 42% to R720m. Earnings dropped 8% to R146m, but AAF pegged its dividend at 55c per share.

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