SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian company DomaCom has pulled out of a fund-raising effort to purchase S. Kidman and Co, the country’s largest private land holding, chief executive Arthur Naoumidis told Reuters on Monday, after a bid on Sunday from a group led by Australia’s richest woman.
Previous S. Kidman bidders Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co Ltd (Dakang) and Australian Rural Capital Ltd (ARC) have decided not to launch a counter offer and are expected to follow DomaCom’s exit from the bidding, a source at the Hunan and ARC consortium told Reuters.
The decisions remove potential rivals to an A$365 million ($277 million) joint bid announced on Sunday for the politically-sensitive asset lodged by Australia’s richest woman, miner Gina Rinehart, and Chinese developer Shanghai CRED.
The sale of the large rural cattle-ranching holding - about the same size as South Korea - has sparked heated debate over whether key Australian agriculture land and assets should be sold to foreign interests.
In April, the Australian government rejected an offer by a consortium headed by Shanghai CRED, Hunan Dakang and a minority 20 percent Australian interest, the group’s second rejection in six months.
Naoumidis said it would be too difficult for Domacom to compete with the Rinehart-led offer.
“We are winding up our Kidman campaign,” Naoumidis said. “It’s not just majority Australian; it’s Rinehart. She’s politically connected.”
The Rinehart-Shanghai CRED deal requires regulatory approval, but that consortium’s offer - consisting of two-thirds to be owned by the Rinehart-led Hancock Prospecting and one-third by Shanghai CRED - satisfies the government’s preference for S. Kidman to remain at least majority Australian owned.
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry and Christian Schmollinger