Four Australian farmers just outbid Gina Rinehart for S. Kidman & Co.

Photo: Tony Lewis/Getty Images.

A consortium of Australian families has emerged as a competitor to buy S. Kidman & Co., Australia’s largest cattle business.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart wants to buy the land, in a $365 million deal which would see 67% of S. Kidman and Co. owned by a domestic company and the other third held by Chinese-owned Shanghai CRED.

Under such a deal, Rinehart still needs to go before the Foreign Investment Review Board, because there is a minority foreign investor.

The group of Australia graziers — made up of Tom Brinkworth, Sterling Buntine, Malcolm Harris and Viv Oldfield (BBHO) — has offered a $386 million bid to acquire 100% of S. Kidman & Co. shares.

BBHO says if they could buy the land, it would stay totally Australian owned and would triple the size of the cattle herd marketed under the Kidman name.

Yesterday crossbench senator Nick Xenophon said the sale should go to the new all-Australian consortium, which has the experience and commercial acumen to continue the Kidman empire.

S. Kidman & Co Ltd has around 185,000 cattle on land covering covering 101,000 square kilometres across South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The future of the property has been a lightning rod for debate on the increasing ownership of Australian assets by companies from China.

The federal government previously rejected offers from Dakang and its ASX-listed bidding partner, Australian Rural Capital, on national interest grounds.

Ernst & Young has been managing the sale for more than 18 months, and has held talks with more than 600 interested parties in that time.

Additional reporting by Paul Colgan.