Chinese investors drop bid for Australia's largest cattle ranch

Australian treasurer says deal may be contrary to national interest.

A consortium consisting of China-based Dakang Australia Holdings Dakang and Australian Rural Capital Ltd. dropped their $281.3 million (U.S.) bid this week after missing a crucial deadline in their second attempt to acquire S. Kidman & Co., Australia’s largest private landowner and one of the world’s largest cattle ranches.

On April 15, Australia's treasurer Scott Morrison extended the review period for the application in order to sufficiently consider the “complex case.” On April 29, however, he expressed concern regarding the deal and gave the two companies a deadline to respond.

“Given the size and significance of the Kidman portfolio, I am concerned that the acquisition of an 80% interest in S. Kidman & Co. Ltd. by Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd. (Dakang) may be contrary to the national interest. I have today made my concerns known to the applicant and provided them with a natural justice period in which they may respond and consider how they wish to proceed,” Morrison said in a statement that gave the applicant until May 3 to respond.

Morrison expressed concern over the ranch selling as a single composite property asset, saying it was not in the national interest. “I am not yet satisfied these concerns have been addressed by the revised proposal that has been submitted to me,” he said.

Additionally, he said a review found that significant domestic interest in the ranch remains. “The size of the asset makes it difficult for any single Australian group to acquire the entire operation."

Kidman managing director Greg Campbell told Xinhua news agency that the tight timelines meant that withdrawing the foreign investment review board application and terminating the bid implementation agreement was really the only option available.

"Kidman is typical of many large agricultural pastoral holdings in that the value of the business comes from the strategic advantage in having a geographically spread portfolio of properties," Campbell said.

"A breakup of the business to sell properties separately would result in significant reduction in Kidman's value, reduced production of up to 3,000 (metric tons) of beef per annum, the loss of 50 jobs from the present structure and lower tax revenue for the country," he added.

Kidman holds approximately 1.3% of Australia’s total land area and 2.5% of Australia’s agricultural land. It has 10 cattle stations, including properties across regional South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland covering 101,411 sq. km. Additionally, the company has managed a long-term average herd of 185,000 cattle.

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