Mon, Oct 24, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Australian grazier group counters cattle empire bid

AFP, SYDNEY

An all-Australian consortium comprising some of the nation’s richest grazier families yesterday made a counteroffer for one of the world’s largest cattle estates, sparking a bidding war with a Chinese-linked proposal.

The sale of Australia’s biggest private landowner, cattle firm S. Kidman & Co, has attracted keen interest from Chinese companies.

However, the government has rejected two Chinese-led bids, citing the national interest.

The new A$386 million (US$294 million) offer announced late yesterday came just two weeks after Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart and Chinese property developer Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co (上海中房置業) announced a joint A$365 million bid.

“We have developed a compelling and superior proposal to that recently supported by the Kidman board which will see Kidman 100 percent Australian-owned,” Sterling Buntine, one of the pastoralists, said in a statement.

“BBHO’s [the consortium] financing is committed and our proposal does not require Foreign Investment Review Board approval, which means greater certainty for the Kidman shareholders. The four families comprising the consortium are deeply committed to honoring and preserving the Kidman heritage and brand which will continue under the stewardship of highly regarded and successful Australian graziers,” Buntine said.

The other consortium members are Tom Brinkworth, Malcolm Harris and Viv Oldfield, all of whom have sizable properties across the continent.

Under the Australian proposal, Anna Creek station in South Australia — which is next to a rocket testing range — is included in the deal.

Anna Creek was removed from the sale after the first Chinese-led bid was rejected in November last year.

Canberra cited the sensitive location of the station, which has about half of its pastoral lease in a weapons testing range.

There had been optimism that Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty joint offer with Shanghai CRED, which would see her firm acquire 67 percent of Kidman with the Chinese company holding 33 percent, would get the green light from Canberra.

Shanghai CRED was part of a Chinese consortium involved in the previous offers.

However, the Chinese stake in the current bid would be significantly smaller than previously.

Kidman, founded in 1899, holds about 1.3 percent of Australia’s total land area and 2.5 percent of the nation’s agricultural land.

It is 33.9 percent foreign-owned.

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