Chi­nese con­sor­tium edges closer to se­cur­ing Aus­tralia’s largest milk sup­plier

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By WANG ZHUOQIONG and XIN­HUA wangzhuo­qiong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A Chi­nese-owned con­sor­tium ap­pears to have suc­cess­fully fought off a chal­lenge from a ri­val Aus­tralian group bid­ding to buy the coun­try’s old­est dairy com­pany, af­ter a judge dis­missed an in­junc­tion hold­ing up the sale.

Vic­to­rian Supreme Court Jus­tice James Judd dis­missed the re­quest by TasFoods Ltd for an ex­ten­sion of the in­junc­tion, which had tem­po­rar­ily blocked the sale ofVan Diemen’s Land to the Chi­nese-backed Moon Lake In­vest­ments Pty Ltd.

MoonLake­was­re­cently bought by Chi­nese businessman Lu Xian­feng, the founder and largest share­holder of Ningbo Xian­feng New Ma­te­rial Co, which is listed on the Shen­zhen Stock Ex­change with a mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion of $1.52 bil­lion.

TasFoods claims it had reached an agree­ment in prin­ci­pal to take over VDL for A$250 mil­lion ($181.6 mil­lion), which has been op­er­at­ing in the state of Tas­ma­nia since 1825.

But VDL’s owner, New Zealand’s NewP­ly­mouth Dis­trict Coun­cil, opted at the last minute to ac­cept a “com­mer­cially su­pe­rior” of­fer from the Chi­nese bil­lion­aire’s group.

The coun­cil’s mayor, An­drew Judd, said the court’s de­ci­sion would al­low the lo­cal com­mu­nity to cap­i­tal­ize onMoon Lake’s bid.”

In ac­cept­ing the ri­val’s “com­mer­cially su­pe­rior” of­fer of $280m from Moon Lake, “the coun­cil is ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tion to make de­ci­sions that are in the best in­ter­ests of the com­mu­nity”, Judd said in a state­ment pub­lished by News Corp.

Lu said he was ju­bi­lant af­ter the court lifted the in­junc­tion or­der which al­lows both par­ties to press on with fi­nal­iz­ing the deal.

“We wel­come the court’s de­ci­sion. We are pleased it has been re­solved so quickly, and now look for­ward to preparing for the com­ple­tion of the deal,” he said in a state­ment.

VDL is Aus­tralia’s big­gest milk sup­plier. It op­er­ates 25 Tas­ma­nian dairy farms, milk­ing some 19,000 cows, pro­duc­ing up to 100 mil­lion liters of milk a year.

De­spite the re­moval of the in­junc­tion, the deal still needs ap­proval by Aus­tralia’s For­eign In­vest­ment Re­viewBoard.

Song Liang, a dairy in­dus­try ex­pert, said that Chi­nese in­vestors are in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries in Aus­tralia and New Zealand rather than iron ore and other nat­u­ral re­sources, thanks to the ris­ing de­mand for agri­cul­tural prod­ucts over­seas.

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