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December 22, 2021

Australia’s Murray River Organics seeks “expressions of interest”

Murray River is in the process of selling its remaining farm portfolio.

Murray River Organics is exploring strategic options, including a full sale of the Australia-based snacks and cereals maker or a partial interest.

“Following a further strategic review undertaken by Lion Advisory, the company is currently seeking expressions of interest from both institutional investors and private-equity funds to take a strategic stake in the company,” Murray River Organics (MRO) said in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange today (22 December).

It added: “The company is also seeking expressions of interest from parties interested in an acquisition of the company.”

The owner of the Premium Australian Clusters snacks brand added its securities will remain suspended on the exchange as it is unable to file its updated annual results pending an expected conclusion of disposal proceedings in the third quarter of its 2022 fiscal year, which started on 1 July.

“A change to the profit and loss and financial position reported in the appendix 4E preliminary final report lodged was identified,” the company said.

Under recently installed CEO Birol Akdogan, Murray River’s strategic focus is now on its branded, value-added retail products – fruit and nut snacks, cereals and cooking oils – sold into stores such as Woolworths and IGA.

After disposing of dried vine fruit assets in New South Wales in May and selling land to Costa Group Holdings last year, Murray River announced today a full-scale exit from its farming operations.

“The company has received an indicative offer from a third party to acquire the entire remaining farm portfolio,” it said, adding due diligence is in process ahead of the expected completion of the deal in April.

A trading update was also provided. “Whilst we expect year-on-year revenues to decline due to our exit from fresh produce and reduced exposure to private label, the higher margin MRO retail branded products continue to grow strongly, with sales for the five months to 30 November up 32% on the prior year.

“This was despite ongoing supply chain disruptions, which the company has sought to manage by prioritising its branded retail business ahead of its wholesale and ingredients division.”

In its full-year fiscal 2021 results issued in August, MRO confirm it had sold part of its fresh fruit farm in Nangiloc, Victoria, and also its Fifth Street and Gol Gol “properties”.

For the year ended on 30 June, MRO reported a 12% decline in group sales to AUD42.6m (US$30.5m). Branded retail made up AUD24.5m, an increase of 24%, ingredients AUD11.9m, exports AUD6.9m and fresh produce AUD1.4m.

EBIT-L came in at a AUD19.6m loss versus a AUD36.3m loss a year earlier.

Underlying EBITDA-SL was also in the red at AUD11.7m, compared to a AUD10.3m loss in the corresponding period.

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