CROWDFUNDING property fund manager DomaCom says S. Kidman and Company's call to Australian investors to join the bidding process for the 117-year-old pastoral business has recognised public sentiment wants the company to remain Australian-owned.
The nation's largest private landowner has re-opened its dispersal sale to Australian parties, although the sale process with two overseas-based investment groups continues.
Kidman and Co is a awaiting a decision on their applications to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).
Treasurer Scott Morrison blocked the sale to foreign investors last November based on FIRB concerns about part of the Kidman estate being located too close to the Woomera defence facility in South Australia.
Anna Creek Station has since been carved off from the main Kidman holdings for separate sale to Australian investors, but Kidman and Co has also made clear any Australian parties still have opportunities to make fresh bids for the business if the Chinese front-runners in the tender process made an official takeover bid for the public company.
"I am encouraged that my decision last November has led to today's development," Mr Morrison said in a statement on Wednesday.
DomaCom chief executive officer Arthur Naoumidis said the latest Kidman announcement and Mr Morrison’s endorsement reflected the reality of a "genuine public interest in keeping all the iconic Kidman pastoral stations in Australian hands".
DomaCom itself has attracted strong support for its plan to raise funds from ordinary retail investors to buy the Kidman property assets which cover to about 1.3 per cent of Australia's mainland land mass.
Mr Naoumidis said while there were no shortage of sceptics in the market who believed his offer was little more than a publicity stunt, DomaCom realised there was enormous interest among "mum and dad" investors to invest in part of this country's agricultural heritage.
About 4000 retail investors had pledged about $60 million in two months to keep the 10.1m hectares of Kidman properties in SA, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia in Australian hands.
"Opinion polls show ordinary Australians are deeply concerned about retaining our agricultural land, as well as the businesses that flow from them, and our crowdfunding proposal gave them the opportunity to give expression to that concern," he said.
Adelaide-based Kidman managing director, Greg Campbell, said as soon as the successful final bidder lodged a bidder's statement with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) any other Australian bidder had an opportunity to also make a takeover offer for Kidman.
"If that offer is considered to be a "superior proposal" Kidman directors have a fiduciary duty to recommend that offer for acceptance," he said.
Mr Naoumidis said Kidman's decision to openly encourage Australian interests to have a crack at acquiring the pastoral empire was "a shot in the arm" for the DomaCom offer.
"We hope the announcement by Kidman will encourage more retail investors to come forward to invest in Kidman,” he said.
Victorian pastoralist and ASIC-licensed financial adviser Stephen Burgin, who teamed up with DomaCom to promote its bid, said there were sound commercial reasons for retail investors to invest in Kidman Station.
"Burgeoning property investment in agricultural property, underwritten by strong domestic and export demand, should continue in the medium to long term, especially in light of sustained low currency exchange rate,” he said.
"Investors, who can participate for as little as $2500, will, in fact, be the landlord and thus fractionally participating in the lease back income stream generated from the station operators.”
They would receive stable income, several times that of current cash rates and part of the income would be tax-free and tax deferred due to the nature of agricultural investment.
"Aside from the issue of keeping it in Australian hands, the investment reality is that under our proposal the land is expected to return about eight per cent to 9pc to our investors."