© Pablo Gonzalez, Bloomberg
An Argentine billionaire banker is on the verge of becoming a beef mogul.
Jorge Brito, who owns the controlling stake in Banco Macro SA, wants to raise at least $200 million through an initial public offering of his ranching company, Inversora Juramento SA, in New York, he said in a Sept. 4 interview from his ranch in Salta province, northwest Argentina.
Brito saw ranching as a hobby when he started out in the early 1990s. But Juramento’s 65-year-old chairman and majority shareholder, whose fortune the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates at $1.2 billion, now has loftier ambitions. “The business has proved to be a success and the time has come to double its scale,” he said, surrounded by some of his 70,000 cows.
The company, which already trades on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, is seeking an investment bank to advise it regarding the sale of American depositary receipts on the New York Stock Exchange. Brito doesn’t want to raise less than $200 million in order to give investors liquidity. Juramento’s Argentine shares rose as much as 4.8 percent on the news, the most since July 25.
“It’s very positive for the company and the local market to keep attracting foreign investors,” Carlos Aszpis, an analyst at Buenos Aires-based brokerage Schweber Securities SA, said by phone. “It not only adds depth to the market but also stimulates the trading,” he said. The company’s shares traded almost three times more than the three-month average on Monday.
Brito’s move to create a beef empire by multiplying Juramento’s herd and buying up new land comes at a time when President Mauricio Macri is leaning on farmers to drive an economic recovery. Macri scrapped a beef export tax of 15 percent when he took office in December 2015 and is in talks to ship fresh cuts to the U.S. for the first time in about 15 years. That’s a turnaround from his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose protectionist policies stifled the beef industry.
“Since Macri has come in, the equation has turned positive,” said Brito.
Ranchers have responded by raising cattle numbers. Year-end stocks are forecast to rise to 54.7 million, the most in a decade, according to a March report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And exports are also expected to climb from a year ago to 270,000 metric tons.
Juramento’s 87,414-hectare farm (about 216,000 acres) is primarily set up to breed Brangus and Bradford cattle. The company uses 14,000 hectares to grow corn and soybeans, and therefore doesn’t need to buy cattle feed, Brito said. While it exports premium cuts to Europe, most of its beef is sold domestically because the more than 800-mile journey to a port in Buenos Aires is expensive.
Inflation that’s proving tough to tame and an overvalued currency mean Argentine meat packers remain uncompetitive and find better profits in the local market, according to the USDA. Argentina was the world’s top beef exporter in the 1930s but now lies 10th in the table of exporting nations, behind smaller neighbors Paraguay and Uruguay.