The planet is facing a topsoil crisis, meaning that the greatest commodity of them all one day could be farmland. That potentially makes Cresud Inc. (NASDAQ: CRESY), which owns large swathes of farmland in Argentina and also has a growing presence in both Paraguay and Brazil, a sound long for punters. Additionally, the firm is currently involved in a variety of other projects including crop production, cattle raising and milk production, not to mention real estate accumulation (several shopping centers in Buenos Aires, for instance). In fact, while it is estimated that the firm owns about a million acres of farmland and 50,000 head of cattle, Guy Bennett of Q1 Publishing, an investment research firm, mentioned that Cresud’s executives consider themselves to be primarily a real estate development company. But all this diversity may not necessarily be a positive. Per one commentator:
“A significant component of Cresud’s net asset value lies in its stake in IRSA, owner of commercial real estate in Argentina and stakes in a few other affiliated real estate companies. IRSA has a lot of debt which poses a risk of a dilutive debt refinancing or potentially even bankruptcy, either of which would erase a significant portion of Cresud’s NAV. If Cresud were only a farmland owner, it would be much more attractive.”
On Thursday, the expansion of operations continued. The company reported to the Argentine Comision Nacional de Valores and to the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange that it agreed the purchase of approximately 7,600 ha of farmland in Bolivia at USD 17,501,359.99. The company has paid 43% of total amount while the rest remain to be paid in two annual consecutive payments, the first one to be paid during calendar year 2009. These transactions were made according to what was stipulated in the Company plans made public upon the Equity Follow on of last March, regarding international expansion.
One way to think about Cresud could simply be the Asia factor. The company produces many of the food staples that China, for example, will need more and more of as income per head rises. Corn, soybeans, sunflower (oil), and beef are some of the firm’s major products. Of course, there’s always that pesky problem of export taxes, but if you listen to insiders, a more business friendly government could be in store for the country in the coming years.