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Aust govt orders review into land sale

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/04/2016

Treasurer Scott Morrison has ordered an independent review into a Chinese-led consortium's plan to buy one of Australia's biggest pastoral companies.

The consortium has offered $A371 million ($NZ411.13 million) for S. Kidman & Co, which runs almost 200,000 cattle over more than 100,000 square kilometres in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

China's Dakang Australia Holdings plans to acquire 80 per cent of Kidman while Australian Rural Capital Ltd is looking to take the remaining 20 per cent stake, subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Mr Morrison has ordered an independent review into the sale and tender process.

He has also signed an interim order preventing the sale from going ahead for 90 days while he considers national interest implications.

"I want to be absolutely confident when I finally consider this matter that Australians have had every opportunity to be participating in that process," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"National interest considerations and proposed transactions should not and will not, on my watch, be rushed."

A previous foreign bid to buy Kidman was blocked in November because of national interests.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has played up the benefits of foreign investment in the wake of the latest offer.

"Our goal is to ensure always that Australia's national interest is advanced but remember we do benefit from foreign investment," he told Adelaide radio station 5AA.

"It's very important that foreign investors, upon whom we depend for many of the jobs in Australia, see Australia as a safe place to invest in and a place where their applications will be considered carefully and methodically in accordance with the law."

Kidman chairman John Crosby said the proposed acquisition would secure the company's long-term future.

"We believe Dakang Australia and ARC will be good custodians of the business and this transaction will provide a solid platform for growth and, at the same time, an opportunity for Australians to participate in Kidman's future," he said.

The company produces grass-fed beef for export to Japan, the US and Southeast Asia.

Anna Creek station, in SA's far north, will be separated from Kidman's other businesses before any acquisition goes ahead.

The Kidman offer is scheduled to close on August 5.

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