S.Kidman & Co deal contrary to national interest, says Australia's Treasurer
Sidney Kidman property Glengyle Station (Photo: Glenn Campbell)
Australia Financial Review | 29 April 2016
S.Kidman & Co deal contrary to national interest, Scott Morrison says
by Primrose Riordan, Matthew Cranston, Lisa Murray
Treasurer Scott Morrison was accused of playing politics with foreign investment after he decided to stop a Chinese-led consortium buying Australia's biggest private landholder, buying S.Kidman and Co.
National Farmers Federation Vice President Fiona Simson said the veto over 1.3 per cent of Australia's land mass would confuse and send mixed signals to foreign investors, who he said were badly needed in the agriculture industry. Future Farmers Network board director Sam Trethewey questioned if the decision was xenophobic.
Mr Morrison, who had previously given himself until after the election to decide, announced on Friday a "preliminary decision" that the sale was against the national interest.
The deal did not give local bidders enough of an opportunity, the land size was too large and he needed to consider maintaining support within the electorate for foreign investment, Mr Morrison said.
Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce said the decision "shows our nation has the capacity to say yes – and often does – to foreign investment, but is also prepared to say no".
While officials from China's Ministry of Commerce said they hoped Australia would reconsider, rival domestic bidders for the company were moving in.
Labor Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment Penny Wong said Mr Morrison had made the decision a "political plaything".
Australian Rural Capital and China-based Dakang Australia Holdings last week pipped Australian bidders with a $370.7 million offer for S.Kidman and Co.
This is the second time a deal to buy the company has hit a roadblock due to national security concerns. The latest agreement no longer includes Anna Creek near the weapons testing site at Woomera in South Australia, which Mr Morrison said last time was the reason he blocked the sale.
"Is this is about appeasing the xenophobic, dark side of many Australians and clinging to polls?" Mr Trethewey tweeted.
The company, which covers almost 11 million hectares of cattle stations – including the world's largest, Anna Creek – was offered for sale this time last year through EY.
Dakang Australia is 51 per cent owned by Dakang Pasture Farming and 49 per cent owned by Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co. Dakang was set to acquire 80 per cent of S.Kidman & Co and Australian Rural Capital was to acquire 20 per cent of the company.
Fox wanted to buy
Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, who also wanted to buy the S.Kidman & Co property portfolio, supported the decision. "I guess the Treasurer has to do what he has to do," Mr Fox said.
Other bidders also expressed support for Mr Morrison. DomaCom chief executive Arthur Naoumidis, who attempted to buy the land, said it was "very pleasing" that the government had heeded the outpouring of public sentiment.
"What the DomaCom campaign clearly demonstrated that there is genuine public interest in keeping the iconic Kidman pastoral station in Australian hands, and that 'mum and dad' investors want to have a stake in this country's agricultural heritage."
The general manager of Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock, Gui Guojie, pledged to sponsor Port Adelaide Football Club to the tune of millions of dollars before the deal was inked.
Some Chinese media reports had emphasised how incredible it was that a company was able to purchase such as sizeable amount of a country, an area equivalent to Zhejiang province in South China.
Hong Tao the chief investment officer of Pengxin Group, which is backing Dakang Australia Holdings, said: "it is unimaginable in China that you could own over 100,000 square kilometres of land."
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