Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart is all but assured of taking over the Kidman land and cattle empire after a rival withdrew its offer.
The all-Australian consortium BBHO, made up of the Buntine, Brinkworth, Harris and Oldfield grazier families, pulled its planned $386 million proposal on Friday.
The decision by BBHO came a day after the Kidman board unanimously recommended a freshly increased $386.5 million offer by the Hancock Prospecting-Shanghai CRED joint venture dubbed Australian Outback Beef (AOB).
Ms Rinehart, who grew up on outback cattle stations and has been expanding her agricultural interests of late, has already said she’s prepared to go it alone if her Chinese partners are knocked back by regulators.
Hancock has a 67 per cent stake in the joint venture but the billionaire says she stands behind the improved bid and “will proceed with the acquisition on a 100 per cent basis” if need be.
BBHO was graceful in defeat, wishing AOB well.
“We are disciplined investors in Australian rural assets and made what we believed to be a full and fair offer,” BBHO said in a statement.
“We congratulate the Hancock Shanghai CRED consortium for similarly recognising the potential of the iconic Kidman brand.
“Should they be successful in completing the acquisition, we look forward to welcoming them as neighbours.”
S Kidman and Co is the country’s largest private landholder, having amassed 101,000 square kilometres of pastoral leases in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory – equating to 1.3 per cent of Australia’s landmass and 2.5 per cent of its agricultural land.
Treasurer Scott Morrison, who has already twice rejected sales of Kidman, said he was pleased there had been several Australian bids.
“It’s now up to the Kidman family to make a decision on how they want to proceed and the government will take it from there, if the government is required at all to consider any of those matters,” Mr Morrison said.
He blocked a planned sale on national interest grounds in November because about half of one of Kidman’s stations and Australia’s largest single property holding, Anna Creek, is in the Woomera Prohibited Area weapons testing range in South Australia.
AOB’s previous $365 million bid excluded Anna Creek but the higher offer is for all of Kidman, so it’s understood a third party, South Australia-based Williams Cattle Company, will simultaneously buy the station off AOB for about $15 million to $16 million to quell any national interest concerns.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten commended BBHO for their bid, saying they were determined to try to do the best they could by Australia’s cattle industries.
“It is ultimately up to Kidman & Co who they sell that land to,” Mr Shorten said.
“Whoever it is it will be a majority Australian bid, so that’s good, but I admire the courage of these pastoralists and these cattle graziers who are willing to invest in the future of the cattle industry in this country, so I congratulate them for creating a real sense of choice.”
More than 600 interested parties have held discussions with the sale manager since the landholding went on the market almost 18 months ago.