A bold last-minute bid to buy S. Kidman and Company's vast cattle station business by raising about $400 million via an unconventional crowdfunding campaign is claiming huge public support, including Queensland cattle industry players pledging $1m each.
The architects behind the "mum and dad" investment scheme have also met some Kidman family members in the hope family discussions at Christmas may enable the late-breaking initiative to be fast tracked for consideration by the company in January.
But the surprise bid (and those behind it) is largely a mystery to management of the historic pastoral empire and the corporate advisory giant, EY, which started the sale process since April.
"I've had nothing to do with them, and my understanding is EY has not had specific feedback about their plans either," said Kidman chief executive officer, Greg Campbell.
"Given the amount of due diligence you'd expect any serious buyer would want to do on this sort of business, I think they've made their move six months too late.
"If you're talking of spending $400 million you need to have some serious insight into what the business is all about, what's at stake."
Mr Campbell said while recent twists and turns in the sale process and "come out of the woodwork", making it harder to predict how events may eventually unfold, he doubted the chances of success for new parties joining the race "at this late stage", including the enthusiastic DomaCom's grassroots funding initiative.
The bid is led by Melbourne-based financial planner Steve Burgin, who anticipated those contributing to the crowdfund would be shareholders in a public listing of Kidman’s business on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
The 185,000-head cattle operation would then be managed by another existing ASX-listed beef sector business or similar large-scale pastoral group.
He estimated the 10.1m hectares of Kidman land, herd and fixed assets would generate about a six to seven per cent return from the leaseback deal, plus up to 5pc long-term capital gain.
Mr Burgin, who has his own Angus cattle enterprise in Victoria's Western District, said he was "blown away" by the interest from "mum and dad" retail investors who had swamped the DomaCom platform to pledge money, even paying up-front.
Although its Kidman bid was only launched two weeks ago, the unconventional DomaCom property investment vehicle had more than 1300 people registered, plus institutional interest, with more than $30m pledged.
Funds pledged ranged from $2500 by individuals, to several North Queensland producers interested in spending up to $1m to get involved, while at least one Western Australian grazier had offered $500,000.
"I'm humbled by the wave of public emotion suddenly behind us," said Mr Burgin.
"Australians are voting with their wallets.”
S. Kidman and Company is Australia's largest private landholder based on 10 cattle station aggregations in SA, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.