Kidman decision expected late January

28 Dec, 2015 03:00 AM
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A decision on who is likely to buy the 117-year-old S. Kidman and Company cattle business is not expected until late January, but it depends on Canberra.

Revised offers from the Chinese-led bidder groups were only recently submitted to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and now await their approval after the company bowed to government concerns about the size of the full 101,000 square kilometre enterprise selling to offshore interests.

The government was also uneasy about the sale's inclusion of land adjoining the Department of Defence's missile testing area at Woomera in South Australia, prompting Mr Morrison to block November's sale bids, worth up to $370 million, because they were against national interests.

Kidman has since carved off 24pc of the company's holdings, based on Anna Creek Station, from the main sale.

"Anna Creek" and "The Peak", covering about 23,700 square kilometres, will now be offered separately to Australian-based investors only.

Keeping the whole enterprise Australian-owned has been a key part of the marketing pitch behind the internet-based property investment business DomaCom's crowdfunding campaign, backed by financial planning network, InterPrac.

Apart from generating a groundswell of strong public support for Kidman and Company to stay in Australian hands, DomaCom is spruiking its plans to superannuation funds cashing in on rising investor sentiment in agricultural assets.

More than 1300 people had registered their interest, pledging more than $30m, prior to Christmas, with institutional interest also building.

At least 600 retail investors had already put money on the table.

To get over the line it is estimated that at least 10,000 investors would need to subscribe, based on an average participation of about $35,000 each.

DomaCom is promising to start full due diligence on the Kidman assets once it has about $200m committed and banked, but meanwhile is relying on the fact that several other potential buyers have already conducted investigations and are believed willing to pay more than $350m.

However, EY's head of transactions in SA, Don Manifold, who has been managing the sale process since April, noted the large and complex Kidman cattle business across inland Australia was not likely to be as easy for DomaCom, or small scale investors, to understand as collecting rental returns from commercial property.

Another key consideration related to the possible need for background checks on those participating in the DomaCom bid.

Mr Manifold said the FIRB's recent decision to block the sale of land adjoining Woomera was primarily focused on its ability to glean enough information on the background of those involved in the bidder consortiums led by Chinese investors.

This potentially meant each investor in the crowdfunding scheme may have to be subjected to similar scrutiny.

"We have not received any specific information about DomaCom's offer plans," Mr Manifold said.

"We've told them we are not entertaining any new interested parties at this stage, but if the situation changes we'll tell them.

"If the current sale process is still not concluded by May or June, it could be that the Kidman board may want to look at different options, but we don't want to switch our attention now."

InterPrac network senior financial consultant, Steve Burgin, conceded the late timing of the crowdfunding move was not ideal for the vendor and would have frustrated EY.

"It's my fault. I should have thought about this idea months ago, but I'm as surprised as anybody about how much support the proposal has gained," he said.

Mr Burgin said he had sent emails to Kidman and Company and had been part of numerous discussions with EY in the past month, but was left to go direct to Kidman family to highlight the possibilities of the crowdfunding bid.

He expected to have more details of those considerations by early January, having raised the prospect of Kidman family shareholders being major players in the refreshed operation after paying out other descendants of Sidney Kidman who wanted to cash in their stakes.

"This is an opportunity for all Kidman family shareholders to extract their cash and those who want to continue to remain part of this iconic business by reinvesting as part of the public float," he said.

"Not all family members want to break their ties with S. Kidman and Co."

Mr Manifold was impressed with the novel crowdfunding approach to raising interest and funds for the acquisition, but said for DomaCom to find funds for a $300m to $400m business and then list it on the stock market required a serious initial public offer process.

"Crowdfunding is a wonderful idea, and a good way to get cash for a start-up business, but I don't see how you can use crowdfunding to run an IPO."

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FarmOnline
Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Jock Munro
28/12/2015 5:16:16 AM

The government would be well advised not to allow the sale of Kidman to foreign interests.
Pejay
29/12/2015 3:42:46 PM

So put some money in the domacom bid all aussie

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