Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Australia formalizes ban on HK bid for pipelines

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia has officially rejected a bid of more than US$9 billion from Hong Kong giant CK Group (長江) for the nation’s biggest gas pipeline company, saying it would be against its “national interest.”

The decision by Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is the latest in a series of steps by Canberra curbing Chinese involvement in key infrastructure projects amid concerns over Beijing’s growing influence across the Asia-Pacific region.

“The consortium led by CK Asset Holdings Limited (長江實業) has been advised of my final decision that its current proposed acquisition of APA Group would be contrary to the national interest,” Frydenberg said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

“I have formed this view on the basis that it would result in a single foreign company group having sole ownership and control over Australia’s most significant gas transmission business,” he added.

The announcement formalized a preliminary decision two weeks ago to block the deal, which would have seen CK Group pay A$13 billion (US$9.41 billion) for APA — owner of 15,000km of pipelines representing 56 percent of Australia’s total gas transmission system.

Frydenberg sought to soften the blow by insisting his decision was “not an adverse reflection on CK Group or the individual companies.”

“The Australian government welcomes CK Group’s investments in Australia and its broader contribution to the Australian economy,” he added.

However, the decision is likely to further increase tensions between Canberra and Beijing, which already reacted angrily when Australia in August barred Chinese telecom giants Huawei Technologies Co (華為) and ZTE Corp (中興) from participating in the rollout of the country’s 5G network, citing security concerns.

Competition between the two nations over influence in the region was further highlighted during regional summits last week in Singapore and Papua New Guinea, with Australia announcing a series of infrastructure and defense initiatives clearly seen as trying to counter Chinese influence.

A report published on Tuesday said that China had sharply escalated cyberattacks on Australian companies this year in a “constant, significant effort” to steal intellectual property.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the report as “unprofessional” and “irresponsible.”

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