Treasurer Morrison rejects sale of Kidman to Chinese investor

By @chelean on
Scott Morrison
Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison speaks during an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh September 26, 2014. Reuters/Samrang Pring

Treasurer Scott Morrison has blocked the sale of S Kidman and Co to a Chinese company, claiming the sale of Australia’s largest private landholder may be “contrary to the national interest.”

The Kidman land portfolio holds approximately 1.3 percent of the country’s total land area, and 2.5 percent of its agricultural land. It will still be Australia’s largest private land owner even after the removal of Anna Creek and The Peake properties.

The acquisition of the country’s largest land by a foreign investor may be unfavourable to Australia, Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday. He has given Chinese investor Dakang Australia until next week to respond to his concerns.

“Given the size and significance of the Kidman portfolio, I am concerned that the acquisition of an 80 percent interest in S Kidman & Co 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. “The applicant shall have until next Tuesday 3 May 2016 to respond.”

Earlier this month, Dakang partnered with Australian Rural Capital to buy the Kidman beef company for $370 million. It got the ARC involved in a bid to satisfy critics who opposed the land’s sale to foreigners. Dakang would have owned 80 percent while ARC owned 20 percent if the sale have pushed through.

In November, Morrison also rejected Dakang’s offer for Kidman, citing the same concerns. Kidman then reopened bids for the land, carving out 2.3 million hectares of the Anna Creek cattle station. However, even without the Anna Creek and even with Dakang partnering with ARC, Morrison still felt the sale would not be beneficial to Australia.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment, however we must be confident that this investment is not contrary to the national interest,” the treasurer said, adding later, “We will continue to welcome and support foreign investment that is not contrary to our national interest.”