The sole Australian wheat exporter AWB Ltd launched its prospectus yesterday in preparation for its A$860m (US$438.7m) float on the Australian Stock Exchange next month.

Andrew Lindberg, CEO of the company, commented that AWB is an attractive investment, where recognised expertise deals with a strong brand. AWB is also a large-scale operation, providing finance and risk management projects, developing grain technology and controlling 18% of the global wheat market. Its "Single Desk" monopoly position is due for review by the government in 2004, but legislation will not be changed until 2010.

In the meantime, the company has forecast an after-tax profit of A$9.4m for this financial year, to 30 September. This puts net profit at A$79.4m, up 25% from last year.

AWB chairman, Trevor Flugge, explained that AWB operates a dual class share structure. There are currently 35,000 Class A shareholders; wheat growers who produce 100 tonnes of wheat over three consecutive years and who can elect seven of the 12 members on the management board. These shares will remain unlisted.

The 242 million shares in the company currently owned by farmers will debut on the ASE on 22 August. Institutions and the public will also have access to an additional 31.8 million of these Class B shares priced at a price of A$3.15 each.

Investors who purchase shares during the AWB float have been promised an 8 cent/share fully franked final dividend in January.