Sat, Apr 30, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Australia blocks the sale of S Korea-size farm to Chinese bid

AP, CANBERRA

Citing national interest, the Australian government yesterday blocked a Chinese-led consortium from buying the nation’s largest private land holding, a collection of Outback cattle ranches bigger than South Korea.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said he was concerned that the land owned by a pioneering dynasty is more than 1 percent of Australia’s total land area and 2 percent of agricultural land.

He said that the land holding was so big that it was difficult for Australian bidders to compete.

The refusal to sell to the Chinese-based Dakang Australia Holdings and Australian-listed company Australian Rural Capital is only a preliminary decision and Dakang has until Tuesday to respond. The price tag is A$371 million (US$284 million).

S. Kidman & Co Ltd owns 10 cattle ranches, a bull breeding stud and a feed lot covering 101,411km2 in four states. That is an area bigger than South Korea and almost as big as the US state of Virginia.

Kidman chairman John Crosby was not immediately available for comment.

The government in November last year blocked the first attempt to sell the Adelaide-based company founded by beef baron Sidney Kidman in 1899 and now owned by his descendants.

The government ruled then that the company could not be sold to foreign investors. Part of the reason was that Kidman owns the world’s biggest cattle ranch, Anna Creek Station, which covers 23,677km2 of arid central Australia. Half of that ranch lies inside the 122,188km2 Australian Department of Defense-controlled Woomera rocket firing range. There are security concerns over foreigners owning grazing or mining leases within the world’s largest rocket range and at least two Chinese miners have been prevented from operating there.

Anna Creek was excluded from the latest sale bid to remove that security consideration.

“The size and the significance of the portfolio combined with the impact the decision may have on broader Australian support for foreign investment in Australian agriculture must be taken into account in this case,” Morrison told reporters.

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