1. Minderoo Group, the “proudly Western Australian” private investment vehicle of mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola, is eyeing up property development opportunities on the east coast, according to chief investment officer John Hartman.

    With Minderoo completing its giant $500 million Perth industrial estate, Roe Highway Logistics Park – 60 per cent of which is now leased – Mr Hartman said the group was looking to “expand out of the west coast”.

    “We’re looking across industrial, commercial and residential investments. It’s something we are working on,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

    Looking east: Minderoo’s John Hartman (centre) with Matthew Gibb from Gibb Group (left) and Ben Lisle from Linc Property.

    In Perth, he said there had been a pick up in the commercial property space with vacancy rates falling and the yield and risk-premium gap between the west and east coasts reducing.

    “We see only blue sky for the residential and commercial markets,” said Mr Hartman who was hired by Mr Forrest to run Minderoo in 2012.

    This was just three months after his release from Sydney’s Silverwater Jail, after being convicted of insider trading in a high profile case. (His former best friend Oliver Curtis, the husband of prominent Sydney PR boss Roxy Jacenko was jailed in 2016 for insider trading and released in 2017.)

    Minderoo, whose assets span property, agrifood, natural resources and energy, will be well advised on any interstate expansion plans – its Perth estate is a joint venture with east coast-based Gibb Group alongside Perth-based Linc Property and Fini Group, the private investment company of Perth developer Adrian Fini.

    In Perth, Minderoo and its partners have benefited from the improved demand for logistics with a string of big leasing deals.

    New workshop

    New tenants signed up include Brambles-owned supply chain specialist CHEP, Silk Contract Logistics and manufacturer Brady Corporation.

    They are joining already announced freight and logistics groups Northline and K-Trans WA, who are leasing new warehouses on the 56 hectare estate alongside a new workshop for international oil and gas services business Expro Group.

    In addition, BP opened a 24-hour fuel station on the estate in December.

    “We’re 60 per cent committed and are well on our way to delivering on our vision,” Mr Hartman said.

    “The final piece will be the rail freight facility. We’re in final stages of establishing [an agreement] with an operator,” he said.

    Mr Hartman said conditions were improving generally in Perth with enquiries “a lot higher”.

    “The industrial market is experiencing high levels of demand driven by online shopping. The logistics theme is playing out here though to a lesser degree than on the east coast.”

    Mr Hartman said he expected to complete negotiations for the remaining tenants and facilities on the estate within the next 6 to 9 months.

    More than 1200 people work at operational facilities at the estate.

    While the coronavirus has hit global supply chains and the movement of international freight, Mr Hartman said he did not expect it to have an impact on the estate over the medium to long term.

    “All companies in the global supply chain have a watching brief [in relation to the virus,” he said.

    Australian Financial Review – 4 March 2020