$13 billion China deal blocked

Cheung Kong Centre Hong Kong

Cheung Kong Centre Hong Kong

It is by far the largest gas transmission system owner in Australia, owning 15 000 km of pipelines representing 56% of Australia's gas pipeline transmission system, including 74% of New South Wales and Victorian pipelines and 64% in the Northern Territory.

Treasurer Josh Frydenburg says his preliminary view is that the acquisition of APA would result in an undue concentration of foreign ownership in Australia's most significant gas transmission business.

"I intend to make a final decision under the formal process within two weeks".

"My sense is that if the FIRB and the treasurer are taking national security considerations seriously into account, they should say "no" to this particular proposed takeover", Jennings said in September. APA declined to comment.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg moved to block a Hong Kong-based company's $13billion bid for Australian critical infrastructure gas pipeline company. New laws created to counter foreign influence were enacted this past summer, and the rhetoric eased on both sides after Turnbull was replaced as Prime Minister by Scott Morrison in August.

"The Australian Government welcomes CK Group's investments in Australia and its broader contribution to the Australian economy".

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

Relations have been decidedly frosty for the past two years; China reacted angrily to allegations of undue influence in Australian affairs, while Australia objected to a Chinese campaign to lay the groundwork for military bases in Pacific Island countries.

Hong Kong is listed as a "special autonomous region" of China.

"This decision certainly isn't surprising and suggests the trend set by Turnbull in knocking back big asset purchases by China-linked companies will be continued under Morrison", said Martin Drum, a senior political lecturer at Notre Dame University in Perth.

A multi-billion-dollar Chinese-backed takeover of more than half of Australia's gas pipeline network looks likely to be blocked by the Morrison Government.

Frydenberg said that his preliminary view was not an adverse reflection on CK Group or the individual companies, noting that the CK Group of companies was already a substantial investor in Australia's gas and electricity sectors and a significant provider of infrastructure services.

Mr Frydenberg said his decision was made in close consultation with the Foreign Investment Review Board, which was split on the proposed sale but expressed concerns about CKI's asset build-up.

CK, whose Australian portfolio includes power distributor Duet Group, has been blocked in the nation before.

As a result, APA's shares have been trading well below the A$11 offer price.

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