Australian Politics

Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart gazumps rivals by promising to buy vast Kidman cattle holdings – with or without Chinese partners

Australian consortium tabled A$386 million bid for the land, which was preferred by lawmakers opposed to foreign ownership of farmland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 12:48pm

An all-Australian consortium on Friday withdrew its bid to buy Australia’s largest cattle empire after the country’s richest woman announced that she was prepared to buy it outright without a Chinese partner.

Gina Rinehart said on Thursday she is prepared to pay the entire A$386.5 million for the country’s largest private landholding, S. Kidman & Co., if regulators block her Chinese partner, China’s Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co., from buying a 33 per cent stake.

The Australian consortium compromising four cattle families known as BBHO made a counter-bid last week of A$386 million. The bid was championed by lawmakers opposed to any foreign ownership of farmland. BBHO, representing the Buntine, Brinkworth, Harris and Oldfield families, announced on Friday it had withdrawn its bid.

I stand behind the bid and should ... approvals not be achieved, then Hancock will proceed with the acquisition on a 100 per cent basis
Gina Rinehart

The Australian government announced in May that the collection of 10 cattle ranches, a bull breeding stud and a feed lot covering 101,411 sq km in four states would never be to sold to foreign interests, after vetoing a second Chinese-led bid.

The Australia-China consortium, Australian Outback Beef, on Thursday bettered the BBHO bid by A$500,000. But crucially, Rinehart said her company Hancock Prospecting was prepared to buy the entire cattle empire if regulators in Australia or China rejected the Chinese stake.

“I stand behind the bid and should ... approvals not be achieved, then Hancock will proceed with the acquisition on a 100 per cent basis,” she said in a statement. “We have the money to invest to properly maintain the stations and their hard-working staff.”

Observers said Rinehart had shown that buying the cattle properties was a priority and that she was prepared to use her abundant wealth to get it.

Kidman directors have recommended shareholders accept the Australian Outback Beef bid if there is no better offer.

Australia’s beef with China plays out over country-sized cattle farm

“We congratulate the Hancock-Shanghai CRED consortium for similarly recognising the potential of the iconic Kidman brand,” BBHO said in a statement. “Should they be successful in completing the acquisition, we look forward to welcoming them as neighbours.”

China-based Dakang Australia Holdings withdrew its application to buy an 80 per cent stake in the family-owned company, founded by beef baron Sir Sidney Kidman in 1899, after the government’s announcement in May that the sale was contrary to national interest. The properties cover an area bigger than South Korea and almost the size of the US state of Virginia.

China says blocked power grid deal will deter Chinese firms from investing in Australia

Foreign ownership of farmland is an increasingly sensitive issue in Australia, where many fear that Chinese-owned farms could supply Australian-grown produce to Chinese parent companies at discount prices or refuse to sell to Australian buyers.

But Australian investors such as Rinehart see a Chinese partner as an advantage in expanding exports to the world’s most populous country.