Australia blocks Chinese firm’s bid to buy major dairy company

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia said yesterday it “would be contrary to national interests” to allow a Chinese firm to buy a major dairy producer, the latest sign of souring relations between the two countries.

The USD430 million sale of Lion Dairy and Drinks – currently owned by Japan’s Kirin – to Mengniu Dairy had been awaiting regulatory approval since November, but the Chinese firm pulled out of the deal yesterday.

“Given this approval is unlikely to be forthcoming at this time, Lion and Mengniu Dairy have mutually agreed to cease the current sale process,” Lion said in a statement.

Although Australia’s consumer watchdog had earlier cleared the deal, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement yesterday that the sale “would be contrary to the national interest”.

The Australian Financial Review newspaper reported that Frydenberg’s stance was against the advice of the Foreign Investment Review Board and his own department.

Earlier this year the Australian government moved to tighten rules covering foreign investment in the country, with temporary measures allowing increased oversight on takeovers of local firms during the pandemic.