Treasurer Scott Morrison has approved the sale of the Kidman cattle empire to mining magnate Gina Rinehart and a Chinese consortium.
In a statement, Mr Morrison said a local farming family would acquire the largest station in the Kidman group, Anna Creek, and its outstation The Peake.
Australian Outback Beef Pty Ltd — owned by Ms Rinehart’s company Hancock Beef Pty Ltd and Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co Ltd — would buy the remainder.
The 117-year-old family company, founded by Sir Sidney Kidman, has pastoral leases covering 101,000sq km across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.
It runs a herd of up to 185,000 cattle, producing grass-fed beef for export to Japan, the US and South-East Asia.
Today’s announcement ends an often fraught, 20-month sale process which attracted interest from 600 parties and included an attempt to crowd-fund an Australian bid.
Mr Morrison blocked an initial all-Chinese offer by Shanghai Pengxin in November 2015 on the grounds that foreign ownership was not in the national interest given the size and defence sensitivity of the Kidman landholding.
The Kidman empire stretches across 2.6 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land, and the Anna Creek station in South Australia sits partly within the prohibitive zone surrounding the Woomera weapons testing range.
In April this year, a restructured Chinese bid which excluded Anna Creek Station and brought in a 20 per cent local partner, Australian Rural Capital, was also rejected by the Treasurer.
Mrs Rinehart’s majority Australian-owned AOB entered the fray in October with a $365-million offer, only to be outbid by a completely home-grown consortium of outback cattle families.
Their $386 million bid was swiftly gazumped by AOB, and the graziers withdrew from the race after Mrs Rinehart revealed her trump card — a commitment that Hancock Prospecting would buy the entire Kidman business itself if its Chinese partner failed the foreign investment test.
Mrs Rinehart has made her fortune in iron-ore mining but has recently been busy building her cattle interests.
In a recent interview she said her hope was to build up an agricultural holding that is not restricted to one geographic area.