ADELAIDE – The Australian government said it will block the sale of S. Kidman & Co., one of the largest cattle producers in Australia to foreign companies. A sale has been rumored for months, and Shanghai Pengxin Group Co. Ltd., a private diversified conglomerate, was among the companies making offers for Kidman.

But the Australian government found such a sale would be contrary to the country’s national interest. Treasurer Scott Morrison explained his decision during a press conference on Nov. 19.

“The parcel of land we are talking about, which is affected by these interests, is some 1.3 percent of Australia's land mass, some 2.5 percent of the agricultural land in this country,” he said. “It is adjacent, in one of those significant parcels — the largest single parcel within that group — to the Woomera Prohibited Area and, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), as well as the other agencies that were consulted, have made recommendations in this respect which I have been pleased to accept.”

Anna Creek, one of Kidman’s stations, is the largest single property holding in Australia, and approximately 50 percent of the pastoral lease is located in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WAP) in South Australia. The WAP is used for military weapons testing and is the largest land testing range in the world, according to the Australian Department of Defence.

Morrison said he would consider new applications related to a sale of Kidman.

“It is now a matter for the vendor to consider how they wish to proceed with offering the composite interests of S. Kidman and Co. Limited for sale,” he said. “I will consider any such future alternate proposal or set of proposals on its merits, consistent with my obligation to ensure that, any such sale is on terms that are not contrary to the national interest.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment where it is consistent with our national interests.”

S. Kidman and Co. Ltd. owns 185,000 head of cattle, according to the company’s website. Kidman produces grass-fed beef for export. The company also has pastoral leases covering 101,000 sq. km. in three states and Australia’s Northern Territory.