SYDNEY • Australia yesterday approved the A$386.5 million (S$411 million) sale of the country's largest private landholder S. Kidman & Co to a consortium led by its richest woman Gina Rinehart, after blocking two previous bids.
Ms Rinehart and her minority partner, Chinese developer Shanghai CRED, will now complete the purchase of S. Kidman, which runs cattle and pastoral activities on tracts of land the size of South Korea.
The deal has spotlighted concerns about the sale of agriculture and other key assets to foreign investors, which led the government to block earlier bids by Chinese-led groups.
"It has been two years since the shareholders resolved to sell and 18 months since the process began, so it is nice to get the regulatory approval," Kidman chief executive Greg Campbell told Reuters.
Domestic ownership of agriculture is considered vital if Australia is to cash in on global food demand and keep tax revenues onshore.
"Kidman will remain majority Australian-owned under this proposal, and remain an Australian-incorporated company headquartered in South Australia," treasurer Scott Morrison said in a statement yesterday.
Ms Rinehart has a net worth of US$11.7 billion (S$16.7 billion), according to Forbes, based on an iron ore empire in Australia's mineral-rich Pilbara region, where she grew up.
Mr Campbell said the deal was expected to be completed by Dec 25, but final Chinese regulatory approval is still outstanding.
The Anna Creek cattle station will not be sold to the Rinehart-led consortium because of its close proximity to a government-owned weapons-testing range. Instead, it will be sold to private Australian cattle farmers.