The hefty mark-up for the 5.5 million ha property could leave foreign bidders in the box seat, testing the government's appetite for foreign ownership less than two years after it rejected China-led bids for an energy grid and agricultural company.
energy grid and agricultural company.
Last week, bids closed for an 83% stake in Fonterra's biggest supplier, Dairy Holdings, which oversees 72 South Island farms. Bidders reportedly include Chinese dairy giant Bright Dairy, a pastoral fund owned by Australian investment bank Macquarie Group, British private equity firm Terra Firma. US private equity firm Carlyle Group and the Harvard Endowment Fund.
The debate over foreign investment is set to expand from the mining industry to agriculture as overseas investors pour billions of dollars into Australian rural properties considered by some to be strategic national assets.