An all-Australian consortium has appealed to Kidman & Co shareholders, board members and the federal government to give a fresh bid a fair go.
Cattle industry giants the Buntine, Oldfield and Harris families have joined with Tom and Pat Brinkworth to bid against mining boss Gina Rinehart and her Chinese partner Shanghai CRED.
S Kidman and Co, founded in 1899, is Australia’s largest private landholder with properties covering 101,000 square kilometres across three states and the Northern Territory.
The syndicate, formed in July, will hold talks with bankers in Sydney on Friday ahead of launching an unconditional bid expected to be at least $10 million higher than that of Ms Rinehart.
The bidders believe they are at an advantage as there was no need for foreign investment approval or regulatory clearance.
“If we were to proceed to a formal offer we would expect we would be in a position to place an offer that would remove several significant conditions and uncertainty that the existing Shanghai CRED-Hancock offer contains,” syndicate member Sterling Buntine told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“We are fair dinkum about this. It is our intention to take this great Australian company and legacy and grow it into a global brand all Australians would be proud of.”
Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon welcomed the bid and urged other politicians to get behind it.
“It’s important the prime minister makes it clear that the national interest would be served by having a 100 per cent fair dinkum Australian bid for S Kidman and Co,” he said.
Senator Xenophon said in the longer term there should be changes to foreign investment laws to require credible local bids to be considered in the national interest.
Mr Buntine, a Northern Territory and West Australian grazier, said he had not come to Canberra to whinge about government regulation.
“What we are here for is to let the government know that there is an Australian bid out there that is 100 per cent and that bid has consistently been at the top of the price structure of bids for Kidman,” he said.
He said it had been surprising the Kidman board had announced Rinehart-Shanghai CRED as the preferred bidder as there were “a lot of conditions attached to it”.
“The number that came out (from Rinehart) was not a number that was too far different from ours,” he said.
The syndicate was also annoyed Malcolm Turnbull and senior government members had been quick to talk positively about the Rinehart-Shanghai CRED bid, not knowing there was an all-Australian bid in the wind.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said it was up to the vendors to decide which bid to accept.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said a 100 per cent Australian bid was “far preferable”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government always welcomed Australians investing in Australian agriculture.
“But… the decisions to make investments are taken by individual commercial enterprises,” he told parliament.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said he was pleased other bids were coming forward.
“When those bids come forward we will consider those to the extent that they will require the approval of the government in relation to any foreign ownership component,” he said.