Mining tycoon and Chinese partner to buy Aussie cattle ranch

SYDNEY • Billionaire Gina Rinehart and a minority Chinese partner have agreed to buy Australia's most iconic cattle company in a deal valued at about A$365 million (S$380 million).

Ms Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting and Shanghai Cred Real Estate Stock reached an accord to buy 100 per cent of S. Kidman & Co, the companies said in a statement on Sunday. The deal requires approval from Chinese regulators and Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board, which last year blocked the sale of Kidman to an overseas buyer on grounds of national security.

The quality of Kidman's herd and its stations "complement Hancock's existing northern cattle properties and align well with Ms Rinehart's plans to build a diversified cattle holding in Australia", Hancock chief executive officer Garry Korte said in the statement.

Founded in 1899 by so-called Cattle King Sidney Kidman, the firm's ranches span 101,000 sq km, or about 1.3 per cent of Australia's total land area, and carry about 185,000 cattle. The family-owned enterprise produces grass-fed beef for export to Japan, the United States and South-east Asia.

The sale of the cattle-ranching holding - about the size of South Korea - has sparked heated debate over whether key Australian agriculture land and assets should be sold to foreign interests. In April, the Australian government rejected an offer by a consortium headed by Shanghai Cred, Hunan Dakang and a minority 20 per cent Australian interest, the group's second rejection in six months.

The sale of the large rural cattle-ranching holding - about the size of South Korea - has sparked heated debate over whether key Australian agriculture land and assets should be sold to foreign interests.

Under the deal announced on Sunday, Kidman would be bought by a venture called Australian Outback Beef, 67 per cent owned by Hancock and 33 per cent by Shanghai Cred.

The agreement is conditional on Kidman divesting the Anna Creek and the Peake stations to other Australian grazing interests, reducing the net price paid for the remaining Kidman ranches to about A$365 million.

Meanwhile, Australian company DomaCom pulled out of a fund-raising effort to buy S. Kidman, the country's largest private land holding, CEO Arthur Naoumidis told Reuters yesterday.

Previous S. Kidman bidders Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming and Australian Rural Capital (ARC) have decided not to launch a counter offer and are expected to follow DomaCom's exit from the bidding, a source at the Hunan and ARC consortium said.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Mining tycoon and Chinese partner to buy Aussie cattle ranch'. Print Edition | Subscribe