Andrey Guryev, the billionaire founder of Phosagro PJSC, has invested in a Russian farming company that manages land 25 times the size of Manhattan. The 56-year-old is a beneficiary of a trust that holds an investment in AgroGard CJSC, Pavel Tsarev, the closely held farm holding group’s chief executive officer, said by e-mail through the press service responding to questions from Bloomberg News. A spokesman for Guryev, who’s the biggest shareholder of fertilizer maker Phosagro, confirmed the holding. Guryev’s fortune, which is largely derived from his family’s 50.3 percent holding in Phosagro, is estimated at $3.7 billion by Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The company is the world’s third-largest phosphate fertilizer maker and the biggest producer in Europe.
AgroGard was established in 2003, employs over 3,200 people and operates 150,000 hectares of land across six regions in central and southern Russia. It was the 21st-biggest operator of farmland in the country in 2014, according to data compiled by BEFL. The size of Guryev’s investment was not disclosed and it’s unclear when the trust acquired the interest. AgroGard is estimated to be worth $150 million by Moscow-based consultancy BEFL.
The company, which grows wheat, sugar beets and produces milk and meat, doesn’t disclose its financial results though Tsarev said its consolidated net income margin was about 30 percent last year. By comparison, Phosagro’s margin was below 20 percent. The profitability of Russian agricultural businesses have jumped in the past two years, as a weaker ruble, which fell with oil, boosted domestic prices and shielded producers from international competition. That’s attracted new investors to the industry. Agricultural output advanced 3 percent last year, while Russia’s economy contracted 3.7 percent, government data show. “There’s significant potential for development of the agriculture sector, especially in Russia," AgroGard’s Tsarev said in the e-mail. AgroGard may be valued at about 10 billion rubles ($148 million), excluding debt and working capital, Vladislav Novoselov, a managing partner at BEFL, said by phone. “It may be regarded as a significant player in the agricultural market,” Novoselov said. Guryev is the founder of Phosagro and his family still controls the company, which is the primary source of their wealth. He was a member of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper chamber of the parliament, from 2001 through 2013, prompting him to transfer ownership of the assets into a trust. His son, also Andrey, is currently CEO at Phosagro.