Australia Set To Block $9.4B Foreign Bid For Its Biggest Gas Pipeline Group

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday that he had advised a Hong Kong-based consortium that its US$9.4 billion (AUS$13 billion) takeover bid for APA Group, the largest Australian gas pipeline firm, would be contrary to Australia’s national interest.

“I have formed this view on the grounds that it would result in an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a single company group in our most significant gas transmission business. I intend to make a final decision under the formal process within two weeks,” Frydenberg said in a media statement.

APA Group is the largest gas transmission system owner in Australia, owning 15,000 km (9,320 miles) of pipelines representing 56 percent of Australia’s gas pipeline transmission system. It also supplies gas for part of all mainland capital cities’ consumption, gas-fired electricity generation assets, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

Earlier this year, APA received an unsolicited proposal from a consortium led by CK Infrastructure Holdings Limited (CKI)—part of the conglomerate of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing—and granted due diligence.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in September that it would not oppose the proposed acquisition, but on the condition that the buyer sell some assets in Western Australia, where it is already present, so as not to distort competition.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said today that he had formed his preliminary view taking into account analyses in close consultation with the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Critical Infrastructure Centre (CIC).

“My preliminary view reflects the size and significance of APA Group. It is about the extent to which the proposal is consistent with Australia’s national interest. The application of our foreign investment policy, expressed through my preliminary view, is not discriminatory against any investor or country,” Frydenberg said.

“My preliminary view is not an adverse reflection on CK Group or the individual companies. CK Group companies are already a substantial investor in Australia’s gas and electricity sectors and a significant provider of infrastructure services that millions of Australians rely upon.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com