There may be another twist yet in the long-running and at times controversial saga to find a buyer for S. Kidman & Co.
Reports this week have suggested a long-awaited sale is all but a done deal after Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd and China’s Shanghai CRED formally launched a $365m bid on Sunday night to buy the company, which comprises 10 million hectares and 150,000 cattle.
However, it has now also emerged that a syndicate involving four Australian families with extensive Australian pastoral interests has also been negotiating to buy the iconic cattle company since June.
The syndicate involves four of Australia’s largest individual landholders: NT and WA cattle producer Sterling Buntine, SA cattle and sheep producer Tom Brinkworth, Central Australian cattleman Viv Oldfield, and one of Australia’s largest wheat growers, Malcolm Harris from Mungindi in NSW, who also has significant cattle property interests in the Kimberley and Barkly Tableland.
Sources have indicated to Beef Central in recent months the syndicate partners have made applications with State Pastoral Units in steps that were believed to lead towards lodging an unconditional offer, and one described as ‘significant’.
Other sources suggest the price being negotiated was in the range of previous Chinese commitments at more than $370m.
Their offer would also have seen S. Kidman & Co remain fully Australian owned.
However, despite its apparent competitive advantages, the Australian syndicate appears to have been sidelined by the S. Kidman board and Ernst & Young in favour of the Hancock-Shanghai CRED bid, which has been granted exclusivity.
It is also been indicated the Australian based partnership was denied permission to physically inspect the properties so it could make an offer.
Beef Central has made contact with a member of the syndicate but been informed the syndicate members have signed confidentiality agreements and will not be commenting on the matter at this stage.
Under the syndicate’s plans, it is understood the famous SK brand would continue to operate, in a supply chain involving around 600,000 cattle, representing the combined total of herds from the four family partners, plus the 150,000 cattle currently in the Kidman business. The syndicate would manage properties separately as part of their individual family businesses.
In effect the Kidman business would cease to be a land owning, beef production business, but would become a beef supply and marketing enterprise under the famous Kidman brand.
At 600,000 head, it would create the single biggest beef supply chain in Australia.
It is understood the Australian syndicate could still lodge an alternative offer.
Under details of the Hancock-Shanghai CRED offer announced on Sunday, a $3.8 million break fee must be paid if either the buyer or S. Kidman & Co exits the deal.