Business / Companies

Chinese companies eye Australia's leading beef producer

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-10-15 10:15

CANBERRA - Several Chinese companies have flagged their interest in bidding for Australian property company S. Kidman and Co, one of Australia's largest beef producers which has a landholding covering 101,000 square kilometers in three states and the Northern Territory.

The Kidman properties are said to comprise the "largest private, non-monarchical, non-state landholding on earth."

The advisory firm responsible for facilitating the sale of S. Kidman and Co, Australia's oldest family-owned landholder group, confirmed two Chinese firms have made their buyer shortlist.

The Chinese contenders in the mix, according to Fairfax Media on Thursday, are the Shanghai Pengxin group - an individual bidder - and a consortium comprising of Shanghai CRED, Zendai Group and Shanshan Group.

The sale of the company's 11 million hectares of land - spreading across South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory - is expected to attract a fee of more than $237 million.

A potential deal is complicated by the company's ownership of land surrounding Australia's classified Woomera rocket range in South Australia.

The Woomera Protected Area (WPA) is the world's largest open range weapons testing facility, with 122,188 square kilometers of land in South Australia's northwest dedicated to the activity.

Ernst & Young's Don Manifold, the group selling the company, said the issue would not prevent the sale from going ahead.

"Anna Creek, which is in the Woomera rocket-testing range, will have some sensitivities," Manifold, a partner for mergers and acquisitions, told Fairfax Media on Thursday.

"There are three zones including green, yellow and red, which is the most important. Anna Creek has a small part within the green zone.

"We have worked with and spoken to each of the state and federal governments and there have been no significant issues raised."

The Australian government blocked the sale of Oz Minerals to Chinese State-owned firm Minmetals in 2009, which owned a mine in the so-called "red zone."

Australia's Department of Defense confirmed the new owners would be subjected to questioning before a decision was made on the clearance level they would be afforded to the area.

"Any subsequent purchaser that requires access to the WPA will require permission from the Department," a statement read.

"Any application for permission to access the WPA will require an assessment based on national security and may result in access being granted subject to conditions."

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