Liffey Mills and a Leinster-based dairy family paid €11m for a 1,090-acre farm in Offaly, which sold at public auction yesterday.
The property which was purchased in one lot was bought on behalf of the two groups. The identity of the family who were involved in the purchase is still unknown.
Described as "one of the finest large commercial farms ever offered for sale on the open market", the farm contained 720 acres of tillage land, 190 acres of grassland, 180 acres of commercial forestry, an extensive yard and two houses.
The sale was handled by Raymond Potterton auctioneers of Navan and while the farm is located in Offaly, a county under lock-down, the auction was saved by the county boundary being held in nearby Co Meath at the Johnstown Estate Hotel, Enfield.
Located at Ballinla, about 7.5km from Edenderry the farm was sold by well-known grain farmer Mark Tong and according to the auctioneers interest in the sale beforehand was "meteoric" .
"There was huge numbers of viewing followed by a lot of soul searching to see if people could they purchase it. There was a lot of multi generational agricultural interest, you had all three generations turning up for viewings. There is no shortage of ambition in the agricultural sector."
Originally a 370ac holding it was expanded to its current size over the last 90 years or so since the Tong family acquired it in the 1930s. It currently has 740ac in tillage, 200ac in grass and 150ac in mature forestry.
All in one block with its own internal roadway system the farm produces about 13,000 tons of grain per annum, all of which is dried on site on an extensive yard that includes three grain dryers , an extensive grain storage, calf rearing and lambing facilities slurry storage, offices, stables and a tack-room.
Also home to a sheep operation with 290 ewes the holding has about 200ac in grazing while the forestry component comprises 150ac mainly of Sitka Spruce surrounded by a belt of oaks and serviced by internal roadways
Two residences on the holding include the original estate house dating from 1842 and the main family residence, a 3,000 sq ft, five-bedroom dwelling.
In line with strict Covid restrictions a total of 50 people attended the auction in the hotel function room. Initially Raymond Potterton offered the property for sale in lots, which saw a 78ac section bid to €700,000, a 74ac section bid to €640,000 and a 61ac section bid to €680,000. No bids were forthcoming on the largest section extending to 877ac including the houses and yards.
However, when the entire was offered the serious business started, “Obviously the contenders were not interested in appetisers, they were there for the main course,” according to Stephen Barry of Pottertons.
The entire opened at €8m and immediately went to €8.5m with two keen bidders driving it on. In bids of €250,000 the price climbed to €10.5m and things eased back slightly to bids of €100,000 until the price reached €10,8m. At that point a solicitor acting in trust for the successful customers put down a bid of €200,000 which brought the amount on the table to €11m.
Mr Potterton called a recess to consult with the vendor and returned to put the place on the market at €11m and as no further bid was forthcoming it sold at that.
According to Stephen Barry the sale of Ballinla, in conjunction with land sales across the country, is indicative of the fact that land as an asset is in a very good place, “The interest we had in this property from the get-go and the level of active engagement is reflective of a huge ambition in agriculture and a massive level of confidence in what land can do for people with money."