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New China-backed wool buyer named

A NEW name has appeared in buyers lists at Perth, Melbourne and Sydney Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) auction centres.

While the name is new, team members behind Global Wool Export (Australia) Pty Ltd are old hands at wool trading.

They started from nothing once before and grew the business into a major wool trader.

That was when ABB Grain - what had been the Australian Barley Board - decided to set up a division to trade wool.

Under ABB the team became the second biggest wool buyer in the country and when Viterra Wool Exports took them over, they became the biggest.

They intend repeating that performance, but this time for private investors who funded setting up the business and who represent Chinese woollen mills.

Global Wool Export is an Australian company owned by Chinese investors and operated by experienced local experts.

It is a new breed of corporate entity starting to take over the Australian wool market from the traditional mid-sized family trading companies that were left after the multi-national agribusiness corporates pulled out.

Global Wool Export started trading on July 1.

At the Western Wool Centre (WWC) on July 2, according to AWEX statistics, Global Wool Export purchased 30 bales or 0.6pc of the wool sold that week, the first week of the new selling season.

On July 8 it purchased 538 bales or 12.7pc and was fourth biggest buyer.

Returning after the three-week auction recess on August 5 it bought 928 bales, 14.3pc, as second biggest buyer.

Last week it took 920 bales, 17.9pc of the market, as top buyer.

Global Wool Export bought mainly Merino fleece at the WWC.

Its purchases in Melbourne and Sydney were less spectacular and focused more on oddments and pieces.

Adelaide-based vice president of the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors, Stephen Hill is managing director of the new company.

Its wool buyer in Perth is Perry Roberts.

It also has buyers in Melbourne and Sydney.

Mr Hill has been in the wool industry for some 27 years.

Mr Roberts has been a wool buyer in Perth since 1986 after starting a few years earlier in his native Tasmania.

He also worked in Victoria before heading west with Kreglinger.

The pair first worked together at Elders, then joined ABB where Mr Hill headed up the new wool-buying team that included Mr Roberts.

They were taken over by Viterra and Mr Hill did a stint with Viterra's parent company Glencore.

When British-based family-owned H Dawson Wool decided to reopen its Australian offices in January last year after a seven-year absence, having previously been part of the Australian wool industry since 1888, it chose Mr Hill and Mr Roberts as two of its representatives.

"We're an experienced team that works well together," Mr Hill said last Friday.

He said Global Wool Export would be good for the Australian wool industry in general and particularly in WA where the typical types of mid-micron wools produced were ideally suited to Chinese mills' requirements.

"More competition is a good thing and it's good for the process," he said, referring to the present sample box and open-cry auction system which is under review.

Discussion papers put out as part of the Australian Wool Innovation wool selling system review have suggested electronic selling to specification at a central Melbourne centre as a possible alternative.

"The fact that a bunch of Chinese mills and large processors, who are our shareholders, have decided to establish an Australian company to secure their supply (of wool) is, I think, a good thing for the industry," Mr Hill said.

"It indicates the Chinese mills that take the bulk of the Australian clip have confidence in Australian wool and in their own ability to continue to produce woollen products that find ready market acceptance.

"While the wool industry in Australia has had something of a shakeout in recent years, the Chinese mills have also rationalised and modernised.

"But let's not forget, while China might have eased back a bit, India and the Europeans have also started taking more of our wool.

"So we plan to be around for the long term."

Marketing of wool as a "luxury" natural product made it very big in China, particularly in "high-end fashion and women's fashion coats", Mr Hill said.

"One of our investors is heavily involved in that area (women's coats)."

Between 50 and 60pc of Chinese woollen mills' output went to their domestic market, he said.

Last week's triple devaluation of the yuan currency would lower the price of Chinese-made Australian-wool products on export markets, he said.

New processes for "next-to-the-skin" woollen products, wool mixes for sporting and recreational attire and wool remaining the "fibre of choice" for worsted suits, guaranteed continuing demand and good returns for wool growers, Mr Hill said.

Mr Roberts said he was looking forward to buying a large portion of the offerings at the WWC.

"I've been promoting WA wool for 29 years now," he said.



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