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Scott and Josh take note: our strategic assets are off limits

Peter Warnes  |  14 Sep 2018Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will not oppose the CK Consortium’s bid for APA Group. As expected, it accepted “a court-enforceable undertaking from the consortium to divest significant gas assets in Western Australia”. These were CK’s collateral damage assets. Now the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and newly established Critical Infrastructure Committee should not be silent. Together, they must send a clear and emphatic message to all foreign investors. Australia’s strategic assets, particularly those energy-related, are off limits.

If the FIRB fails to do so, the federal government should step in, and put the decision on hold. Then call a royal commission headed by Kenneth Hayne and counsel assisting Rowena “Shock and Awe” Orr, to inquire into the working and decision-making process of the Board.

The Chinese state-owned State Grid already owns and operates a diverse portfolio of gas, electricity and water infrastructure through Jemena, “supplying millions of households and businesses with these essential services every day”.

Jemena owns over $10.5bn worth of electricity, gas and water transportation assets across eastern and northern Australia. In the gas sector, Jemena owns a 25,000km distribution network. It is the largest gas distributor in New South Wales with over 1.3 million customers. Transmission pipelines include the Queensland Gas Pipeline linking the Cooper and Surat Basins to Rockhampton and Gladstone; the Eastern Gas Pipeline linking Victoria’s Gippsland Basin to Sydney, regional New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory; the Northern Gas Pipeline linking Tennant Creek to Mt Isa and the Darling Downs Pipeline. In total 2,338km of “some of Australia’s most important gas transmission pipelines”. Their words not mine.

If the CK Consortium gets hold of APA’s 7,500km east coast network, Chinese companies will own all gas transmission pipelines linking Australia’s three east coast capital cities with a reach to near 80% of the country’s population.

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Peter Warnes is Morningstar's head of equities research. Any Morningstar ratings/recommendations contained in this report are based on the full research report available from Morningstar.

 


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