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Wheat seller aims for float

The Australian Wheat Board hopes to be both a publicly listed company and Australia’s largest grain agribusiness within the next twelve months.

In July it moved from a statutory body to the grower-owned, unlisted entity AWB Limited.

Despite the mooted listing, wheat growers producing thirty three and a third tonnes of wheat a year will still control its direction.

These growers have been given A-class shares that allow them to elect the AWB’s board.

AWB regional manager Greg Harvey said B-class shares were currently held by growers who had invested more than $600 million – the organisation’s capital base – through the Wheat Industry Fund over the past ten years.

When the organisation lists, these shares will also be available to share investors.

However, the AWB’s management of the national wheat pool will remain sacrosanct.

Currently the organisation manages, markets and exports Australia’s wheat crop on behalf of the country’s 45,000 wheat growers through the single desk system.

Exports are worth $4 billion a year.

“It is quite simply impossible that revenue from the export pools can be transferred to AWB Limited,” Mr Harvey said.

“It is not allowed under our company

constitution nor would it be allowed by the

government’s Wheat Export Authority that has responsibility to oversee the single desk.

However, the single desk system is facing a National Competition Policy review.

Mr Harvey said change had become the law of life for the grain industry.

He said the three key drivers for change in the industry were deregulation and privatisation in foreign markets, greater volatility and global access to information.

“Now buyers offshore also have minute to minute access to the market. Buyers are more informed,” Mr Harvey said.

“We as marketers and traders have to compete more carefully.”

The AWB is the sole supplier of quality Australian white wheat to the world.

It is the world’s single largest user of the Chicago wheat futures market and the second single largest wheat

marketer and trader in the world.

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