Sale of Kidman and Co property blocked

TREASURER Scott Morrison has blocked the sale of one of Australia's biggest cattle companies, S Kidman and Co, citing national security concerns over a property that covers the Woomera Prohibited Area in central Australia.

The company has been the focus of a fierce bidding war between competing Chinese firms for the past few months, one of many major Australia cattle firms being eyed by Asian investors in recent years.

S Kidman and Co owns the largest holding of private land in the country, or 1.3% of the nation's land area, including Anna Station, which covers much of the Woomera Prohibited Area, a military weapons testing range, run by the Department of Defence.

Mr Morrison said given the size of the family firm's land holdings, and particularly the significance of the Anna Creek holdings and "national security issues around access to the WPA", a sale of the company "in its current form" was against Australia's national interests.

"I note that following communication of my decision all bidders to acquire S Kidman and Co Limited have elected to withdraw their (foreign takeover) applications," Mr Morrison said in a statement.

The Treasurer said he took advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board before making the decision, but he would reconsider any future takeover proposals, "that are not contrary to the national interest".

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, usually a staunch defender of keeping Australian agriculture land in domestic hands, said in a brief statement he agreed with Mr Morrison's decision.

Comment has been sought from advisors to the now-blocked sale.


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