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New bid trumps deal for Australia's biggest landholding

SYDNEY - Four of Australia's wealthiest outback cattle families have formally lodged a A$386 million ($293 million) bid to buy cattle empire S. Kidman and Co, trumping a deal agreed with mining mogul Gina Rinehart and Chinese developer Shanghai C...

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SYDNEY - Four of Australia's wealthiest outback cattle families have formally lodged a A$386 million ($293 million) bid to buy cattle empire S. Kidman and Co, trumping a deal agreed with mining mogul Gina Rinehart and Chinese developer Shanghai CRED Real Estate.

The offer from the BBHO consortium filed late on Sunday, comprising the Brinkworth, Buntine, Harris and Oldfield families, also has the advantage of not requiring approval from Australia's foreign investment board.

The sale of Kidman, which runs cattle and pastoral activities on tracts of land the size of South Korea, has been a lightning rod for concerns about the sale of Australian agriculture assets to foreign investors.

The Australian government has twice rejected foreign offers for Kidman, including a previous bid by Shanghai CRED and China's Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co Ltd that had a minority Australian interest.

Sterling Buntine, the spokesman for BBHO, told Australian Broadcasting Radio on Monday that a successful bid for the country's largest private landholding would create one of the world's largest cattle businesses with more than 500,000 heads of cattle.

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"It is a once-in-a-hundred-year opportunity to acquire places that ... have been neighbors to us, and that strategically help with our chains of properties," Buntine said.

"We hope the fact that there's more money on the table and that there's a lower execution risk will give us a win on this."

Kidman two weeks ago accepted a joint $A365 million offer from Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, and Chinese developer Shanghai CRED Real Estate, but the company's board is required to consider any higher offers.

The BBHO proposal would keep the Kidman name for marketing purposes but split up the vast properties, with various pieces to be absorbed in to the bidding families' existing cattle runs, Buntine said.

Domestic ownership of agriculture is seen as crucial for Australia to cash in on global food demand and to keep tax revenues onshore.

Founded more than 100 years ago, Kidman has an average beef herd carrying capacity of 185,000 cattle and pastoral leases covering 101,000 square km (39,000 square miles).

($1 = 1.3154 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Jane Wardell and Peter Cooney)

Related Topics: CATTLELIVESTOCK
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