Chinese-led group to buy Australia's most iconic cattle rancher

SYDNEY/SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - A Chinese-led group agreed to buy Australia's most iconic cattle company in a deal valued at more than A$300 million (S$314.7 million) after partnering with local investors.

The venture, headed by a company controlled by Shanghai Pengxin Group, will purchase 80 per cent of S Kidman & Co, according to a statement on Tuesday to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Australian Rural Capital Ltd will take a 20 per cent stake.

The deal needs approval from the board and shareholders of Shenzhen-listed Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co, controlled by Shanghai Pengxin. There was no immediate comment from the Australian government, whose approval is also required for the deal.

Kidman - established in 1899 by Sidney Kidman who became known as Australia's Cattle King - runs about 185,000 cattle at ranches spanning 101,000 sq km, or about 1.3 per cent of Australia's total land area. The family-owned enterprise produces grass-fed beef for export to Japan, the US and South-east Asia.

Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board in November blocked the sale of Kidman to an overseas buyer, saying the proximity of its Anna Creek ranch to a weapons testing range could compromise national security. Kidman subsequently carved that ranch from the sale to ease such concerns.

Hunan Dakang holds 51 per cent of the venture, which will pay as much as A$300 million for its 80 per cent stake in Kidman, according to the statement.