Australian rural families set to lodge bid for Kidman farm

Four of Australia's wealthiest outback cattle families plan to lodge the first entirely domestic offer to buy S.Kidman and Co, the country's largest private land holding, for A$385 million ($297.22 million), one of the quartet told Australian Broadcasting Corp on Thursday.

The bid by the BBHO syndicate would be higher than the A$365 million joint offer by Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart and Chinese developer Shanghai CRED that was agreed by Kidman earlier this month.

The sale of Kidman, which runs cattle and pastoral activities on tracts of land the size of South Korea, has been a lightning rod for concerns about the sale of Australian agriculture assets to foreign investors.

The Australian government has twice rejected foreign offers for Kidman, including a previous bid by Shanghai CRED Real Estate and China's Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co Ltd that had a minority Australian interest. Domestic ownership of agriculture is seen as crucial for Australia to cash in on global food demand and to keep tax revenues onshore.

Unlike Rinehart and Shanghai CRED's offer, the BBHO offer for the landholding, will not require Australian foreign investment approval.

"We intend to put a bid that will be absolutely competitive (and unconditional)," West Australian and Northern Territory pastoralist Sterling Buntine, a member of the BBHO syndicate, told the ABC.

"It will be more than what the current bid is on the table and we would expect the Kidman board to treat it with due respect."

Kidman chief executive Greg Campbell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kidman board is required to consider any offer that is superior to the one on the table, but the Rinehart group would have a right to match any rival bid should it gain foreign investment approval.

BBHO will bid for the entire Kidman business, including the defense-sensitive Anna Creek Station, near the Woomera weapons-testing range. The Rinehart-Shanghai CRED offer excludes Anna Creek after it was cited by the government as a security concern. ($1 = 1.2953 Australian dollars)


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