AWB positioned for growth under privatization

by Teresa Acklin
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   MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — After 60 years of government control, the Australian Wheat Board on July 1 became a fully privatized company.

   The company, now known as AWB Ltd., markets grain on behalf of 45,000 Australian grain growers to more than 50 countries and more than 100 export customers.

   “For the first time, Australian growers own and control the future of their grain marketing company,” said Murray Rogers, AWB Ltd.'s chief executive officer. “It is a very exciting time for Australian agriculture and growers.” The company is set for a major growth phase, he said, and has a capital base of about A$600 million. Its grain marketing operation will have three distinct income streams, Mr. Rogers said: single desk pool management; financial services to growers; and other non-pooling commercial activities, including domestic and global grain trading, chartering, seeds, biotechnology and research.

   Earlier this year, AWB Ltd. was assigned the highest possible credit ratings from Standard & Poors and Moody's. The ratings are a testament to the external confidence in the new company, Mr. Rogers said.

   He said the company would begin working toward a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange.