* African seller said the buyer had withdrawn the Australian bid
* Buyer reported China State Construction Engineering Corp.
* Will be the 2nd step to see Chinese purchases since 2020 (Show back reported Chinese buyers, write on)
SYDNEY, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Australia blocked a Chinese construction company from buying a household builder involved in several high-profile projects, citing national security concerns, local media reported, a sign that tensions between trading partners remain high.
Probuild’s majority owner, Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon Ltd (WBHO) of South Africa, said on the Johannesburg stock market that filed late Monday that “a major international civil service and construction firm” withdrew its bid after learning Australia’s foreign takeover regulator would reject it. “On the basis of national security”.
The Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday that China State Construction Engineering Corp planned to pay A $ 300 million ($ 231 million) for WBHO’s 88% stake in Probuild.
WBHO did not name a planned buyer and a Probuild spokesman declined to comment to Reuters. The Chinese company could not be reached for comment.
Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who oversees the country’s Foreign Investment Review Agency, also declined to comment on Probuild. He said in the email that “the government does not comment on the application of foreign investment screening arrangements that apply or can apply to specific cases”.
The move will be Frydenberg’s second intervention to stop buying by Chinese interests since he overhauled the country’s foreign M&A rules last year to include security concerns as an excuse to block the deal.
Since then, Australia has stopped China Mengniu Dairy Co from buying domestic milk producer Lion-Dairy and Drinks Pty Ltd from Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co, leaving a clear path for Australia-registered Bega Cheese to buy it.
The announced Probuild project includes construction of a new police headquarters for Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, and a new headquarters for biopharmaceutical giant CSL Ltd, which makes a COVID-19 vaccine for Australian residents.
WBHO said in the submission that they “remain optimistic about Probuild’s fundamentals and prospects in the Australian market and continue to assess all potential opportunities”.
$ 1 = 1.2995 Australian dollars Report by Byron Kaye and Renju Jose in Sydney; Edited by Matthew Lewis and Kenneth Maxwell