Australian-Chinese consortium bids for Australian ranches

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) " An Australian-Chinese consortium has offered to buy Australia's largest cattle empire in a bid welcomed Monday by the Australian agriculture minister.

Hancock Prospecting Pty. Ltd. announced Sunday that it would take a 67 percent stake and Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co. Ltd. a 33 percent stake in Australia's largest private landholding, S. Kidman & Co. Ltd., for 365 million Australian dollars ($277 million).

The Australian government announced in May that the collection of 10 cattle ranches, a bull breeding stud and a feed lot covering 101,411 square kilometers (39,155 square miles) in four states would never to sold to foreign interests when it vetoed a Chinese-led bid.

The current bid will also need Foreign Investment Review Board approval.

But Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, a friend of Hancock Chairwoman Gina Rinehart, welcomed the interest by the Australia-led consortium.

"I'm always enthusiastic when ... a majority Australian company is buying Australian land," Joyce told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"Most Australians prefer it if a large Australian asset is majority owned by Australians as opposed to majority owned by foreigners," he said.

Chinese-based Dakang Australia Holdings in May withdrew its application to buy an 80 percent stake in the family-owned company, founded by beef baron Sir Sidney Kidman in 1899, after the government announced that the sale was contrary to the national interest.

Foreign ownership of farmland is an increasingly sensitive issue in Australia, where many fear that Chinese-owned farms could supply Australian-grown produce to Chinese parent companies at discount prices or refuse to sell to Australian buyers.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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