Economy

Australia set to nix CK's RM39b pipeline bid on national security

Australia set to nix CK's RM39b pipeline bid on national security

However, Frydenberg said the sheer size of APA, with 15,000 kilometres (9,320 miles) of pipelines, including 74% of pipelines in the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, raised concerns about foreign ownership.

Frydenberg said on Wednesday that his preliminary view had taken into account the significant analysis undertaken through a coordinated whole-of-government assessment and in close consultation with the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Critical Infrastructure Centre, which are key sources of advice to support government decision-making, including on investment transactions.

Frydenbeg said the move was not a reflection on CK Infrastructure Holdings Ltd, part of the empire founded by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

He is set to announced his final decision as part of a formal process within two weeks.

Mr Frydenberg said the proposed acquisition by CK Group would have established a dominant foreign player in Australia's most significant gas transmission business, and therefore was not in the national interest.

APA's spokesman had no immediate comments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in September gave the green light to the takeover, but the Treasurer said that decision was based on broader considerations than those studied by the competition regulator.

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"The application of our foreign investment policy, expressed through my preliminary view, is not discriminatory against any investor or country".

Frydenberg, who until August was energy minister, said he was not opposed to CK Group or its subsidiaries.

APA Group shares, which had never traded at the $11 offer price, fell back to pre-bid levels at $8.48, an nearly five-month low, wiping $1.2 billion off its market value.

In 2015, President Barack Obama raised questions with then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after Australia allowed a Chinese company, Landbridge, to secure a 99-year lease over the strategically important Port of Darwin, which has become a U.S. Marines training hub in northern Australia.

CK, whose Australian portfolio includes power distributor Duet Group, has been blocked in the nation before. CKI and Chinese state-owned State Grid Corp. were in 2016 blocked on classified national security grounds from leasing for 99 years a 50.4 percent stake in Ausgrid, a Sydney electricity grid, for more than AUD10 billion.

Canberra's legion of China sceptics, from the nuanced to neophyte, will no doubt see it as a reaction against Beijing, something the measured Frydenberg was at pains to avoid in yesterday's statement delivered after the market closed.

Frydenberg said the proposed Aus$13 billion (US$9.4 billion) purchase of APA "would be contrary to the national interest".


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