Australia Forum: JVs easier than FDI

FIRB member Patrick Secker said Chinese investors account for a small part of Australian agri’s foreign investor universe.

When it comes to investing in Australia, joint ventures between local and international investors are more palatable than 100 percent foreign direct investments, Patrick Secker, a member of watchdog Foreign Investment Review Board, told attendees at Agri Investor’s Australia Forum today.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment and has been reliant on it,” Secker stressed, echoing comments made yesterday at Infrastructure Investor’s Melbourne Forum. He noted that free trade agreements have helped introduce foreign capital from countries like Chile and the US into Australian agri.

Addressing concerns around Chinese investment – after a controversial FIRB recommendation last year led to the rejection of a A$371 million ($281 million; €252 million) bid from Chinese-backed Dakang Australia to buy S Kidman, together with Australian Rural Capital and Shanghai CRED – Secker pointed out that, of the 13.4 percent of foreign-owned agricultural land, only 0.4 percent is actually owned by the Chinese.

“In value terms, that probably accounts for less than 0.1 percent [of all land],” he added. Investors from the UK are, in fact, the largest group of foreign investors in the Australian agri space.

Noting a strong interest from Australian super funds in domestic agri investments, Secker said he did not expect the introduction of special rules to allow domestic institutions to get easier access to the asset class.

“Both foreign direct investment and domestic capital are important,” he concluded.