Kidman sale not in national interest

Treasurer Scott Morrison has told the Chinese company wanting to buy Australia’s largest private landholder that its planned purchase is contrary to the national interest.

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But he has left the door open to approving the sale of S Kidman and Co after consideration of an external and independent review of the sale process.

While the review found the sale process followed a satisfactory commercial practice that offered opportunity to Australian parties to make an offer, it also found there was significant domestic interest in Kidman.

“I have concerns that the form in which the Kidman portfolio has been offered as a single aggregated asset, has rendered it difficult for Australian bidders to be able to make a competitive bid,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday.”

“The size of the asset makes it difficult for any single Australian group to acquire the entire operation.”

Mr Morrison has given Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd until next Tuesday to respond to his concerns.

The Kidman portfolio is the largest private land holding in Australia covering about 1.3 per cent of the nation’s total land area, and 2.5 per cent of its agricultural land.

Even after the excision of Anna Creek and The Peake properties, Kidman would still be Australia’s largest private land owner and hold over one per cent total land area, and two per cent of agricultural land.

“My preliminary view of the proposal that has been put to me is contrary to the national interest,” Mr Morrison said of the 80 per cent interest in Kidman Dakang wants to acquire.

Nor had a revised sale proposal satisfied his concerns.

The size and significance of the portfolio, combined with the impact the decision may have on broader Australian support for foreign investment in agriculture, must also to be taken into account in this case, the treasurer said.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment, however we must be confident that this investment is not contrary to the national interest.”