The Australian government has blocked the sale of S Kidman & Co, the country's largest private land holding, to a Chinese-led consortium, for a second time in six months, saying the sale was not in the national interest.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said he had given China's Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co Ltd and Shanghai CRED Real Estate Stock Co Ltd time until Tuesday to address the government's concerns over the Australian $371 million ($288 million) offer.
Farmland ownership has become a sensitive issue in Australia as concerns rise over foreign buyers acquiring properties. The government's finding comes as the country heads for federal elections in July.
According to Morrison, he was concerned about S Kidman's vast land assets falling into offshore hands and the difficulty of Australian bidders in launching a rival offer due to the size of the holdings.
The Kidman lands comprise about 2.5 per cent of Australia's agricultural land.
A previous Chinese-led offer for the ranching company, with holdings the size of South Korea, had been rejected by Morrison only six months ago.
According to S Kidman, they were "disappointed and confused" by the Treasurer's decision.
The earlier Chinese-led offer comprised 10 cattle stations extending across 101,000 sq km, including Kidman's Anna Creek station, in close proximity to the Woomera weapons testing range in South Australia.
''Even after the excision of Anna Creek and The Peake properties, Kidman will still be Australia's largest private land owner and hold over 1 per cent of Australia's total land area, and 2 per cent of Australia's agricultural land,'' Morrison said.
''Given the size and significance of the Kidman portfolio, I am concerned that the acquisition of an 80 per cent interest in S Kidman & Co Limited by Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd may be contrary to the national interest.''
The new bid comprises nine of the company's sprawling outback stations in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia - extending across 74,000 sq km and including 180,000 cattle, but excluding Anna Creek.