Land ownership has been a symbol of wealth and power for centuries. Today, some of the largest landowners in the world are multinational companies that hold vast swathes of land for agriculture, forestry, and mining. These companies, with their millions of hectares of land, have an outsized impact on the environment and the communities that live on and around their properties. In this article, you will discover What company owns the most real estate in the world along with other some of the biggest landowner firms in the world and examine their influence.
- Hui Wing Mau: 1,330 million hectares
Hong Kong billionaire Hui Wing Mau made headlines in 2015 when he purchased massive tracts of land in Australia through the Yougawalla Pastoral Company. Along with the 843,800-hectare Yougawalla property, Mau owns Bulka and Margaret River Stations. He also owns an undisclosed amount of land in China, making his total land ownership in excess of 1,330,000 hectares.
- Cleveland Agriculture: 1,917 million hectares
Malcom Harris and his family own Cleveland Agriculture, which is part of Six Rivers Beef. The family bought several properties from investor Consolidated Pastoral Company in 2018, including the Nockatunga station of 852,000 hectares in Queensland, Australia. Cleveland Agriculture’s portfolio also includes the 450,000-hectare Benmara Station, 370,000-hectare Gogo Station, and Uchar.
- Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest: 1.934 million hectares
Andrew Forrest is a mining legend with a fortune of $20.4 billion according to Forbes. He is one of Australia’s richest people and has significant livestock farming interests. In February 2022, he added another 634,000 hectares to his portfolio by purchasing Balfour Downs from Xingfa Ma. This brought Forrest’s portfolio to just shy of two million hectares.
- Brett Blundy: 2.4 million hectares
Australian retail entrepreneur Brett Blundy has amassed an epic portfolio of land over the past few years. His cattle business BBRC owns about 2.4 million hectares in total, although that figure could be set to change. Its supersized Walhallow Station in the Northern Territory is currently on the market, with the asking price currently sitting at around AU$200 million ($145m).
- Handelsbanken shareholders: 2.6 million hectares
Swedish bank Handelsbanken is the majority owner of the Swedish Cellulose Company, Europe’s largest landowner. The company says it has around 2.6 million hectares of forest in northern Sweden, equivalent to the size of the country of North Macedonia.
- Consolidated Pastoral Company – 3.6 million hectares
The Consolidated Pastoral Company owns approximately 300,000 head of cattle and 3.6 million hectares throughout Australia. The company is majority-owned by UK investor Guy Hands’ Terra Firma Capital Partners.
- Macquarie Group Shareholders – 4.4 million+ hectares
The Paraway Pastoral Company runs a number of major sheep, cattle, and crop businesses that collectively cover more than 4.4 million hectares across the country. The firm is owned by Macquarie Asset Management.
- Handbury Group – 5.28+ million hectares
The Handbury Group, headed up by the nephew of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owns and operates Arcoona Cattle Station and Wagyu cattle property Swinging Shovel in South Australia, as well as Western Australia’s The Rises. The combined hectarage of the properties comes to more than 5.28 million.
- Gina Rinehart – 5.4 million hectares
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart teamed up with China’s Shanghai CRED Pastoral in 2016 to buy the lion’s share of S. Kidman & Co. This added to her already bulging real estate portfolio, making her the largest individual private landholder on the planet at that time. However, she has since sold off swaths of land, reducing her holdings to just over 5.4 million hectares.
- North Australian Pastoral Company – 6 million hectares
Founded in 1877, the privately owned North Australian Pastoral Company manages over six million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory, including the 1.6 million-hectare farm Alexandria.
- Joe Lewis & Various Shareholders: 6.4 million Hectares
Established in 1824, the Australian Agricultural Company is one of the oldest firms in Australia, and British tycoon Joe Lewis is currently its major shareholder. The company owns and operates a vast 6.4 million hectares of land across Queensland and the Northern Territory.
- Zhongding Dairy Farming & Severny Bur Shareholders: 9.1 million Hectares
The Mudanjiang City Mega Farm in China is the world’s largest farm, jointly owned by Zhongding Dairy Farming in China and Russia’s Severny Bur. The farm, approximately the size of Portugal, is home to 100,000 cows and can produce 176 million gallons of milk per year.
- Inuvialuit of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region: 9.1 million Hectares
In Canada’s western Arctic area, the Inuvialuit people hold title to 910,000 square kilometers of land, equivalent to 9.1 million hectares. This was made possible by the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act of 1984, which granted them ownership.
- The Inuit People of Nunavut: 35.3 million Hectares
The Inuit people in northern Canada own over 35.3 million hectares of land, thanks to the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement of 1993. This land went on to form the territory of Nunavut, founded in 1999.
- The Catholic Church: 71.6 million Hectares
The Catholic Church’s real estate portfolio includes an astounding 71.6 million hectares of land, which is larger than France. As the second-largest non-governmental landowner in the world, the Holy See controls vast swaths of land across several countries, including Germany and India.
The concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few corporations raises important questions about the sustainability and equity of our global food systems. While these companies may generate significant profits, their practices can also contribute to environmental degradation, social injustice, and the displacement of local communities. As consumers and citizens, it is our responsibility to hold these companies accountable and demand more sustainable and equitable practices. Only by working together can we create a world in which land ownership is a means for promoting human well-being rather than a source of inequality and exploitation.
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