FORIEGN INVESTMENT: Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison annoucned a 30-day advertising clause for properties worth more than $15 million.
FORIEGN INVESTMENT: Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison annoucned a 30-day advertising clause for properties worth more than $15 million. BEN RUSHTON

Foreign investment rules to have low impact on market

THE new rules for foreign investment on the sale of Australian farmland will not make a huge difference to the rural property market.

That's the opinion of Ray White Rural Queensland director Jez McNamara.

Last week, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the introduction of a 30-day advertising clause for properties worth more than the Federal Investment Review Board's $15million threshold.

The new rule means any properties valued at more than $15million would have to be on the market, and advertised widely, for 30 days before an international bidder could buy them.

But in Mr McNamara's experience, higher-value agriculture properties were generally listed on the market for 30 days anyway. He said most of the time these kinds of properties went through an expression of interest process or an auction campaign.

"Most properties have a 30-day marketing period anyway,” he said.

"Normally you look at five to six weeks of marketing before the close of expressions of interest or the auction.

"The only properties that it may affect are off-market deals, which are done through private negotiations or done directly through an interested party and a vendor.”

Speaking broadly for his office, about 95-97 per cent of properties were listed on the market, and only 3-5 per cent were sold through off-market deals.

"We find marketing brings more buyers to the table,” he said.

"It creates competition for our vendors and means the property will receive the best price.”

When announcing the rule changes, Mr Morrison touched on concerns that were raised during the sale of S Kidman and Co.

"Concerns around the ability of Australians to participate in the sale process of agricultural land acquisitions have been a factor in my previous foreign investment decisions, including approval of the sale of S Kidman and Co Limited,” he said.

Mr Morrison twice rejected Chinese-led bids for the iconic cattle holdings before accepting a $386.5million bid from Australian Outback Beef, a consortium of Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting and Chinese company Shanghai-CRED.

In Mr McNamara's experience, it's not normally Australian bidders concerned about their access to deals.

"It's pretty well the opposite more often than not,” he said.

"Foreign buyers have to go through a process anyway. They have always had to apply through the FIRB before they can bid at an auction or put in an expression of interest.

"That approval can take six weeks.

"I think it would be very rare for a normally marketed property to have any issues as far as this new law goes. I think what it pertains to is some higher-end assets that are quietly marketed, probably not through an agent, but through an accountancy firm.

"Usually it's fairly well known they are on the market.”

Although it's still early days, Mr McNamara said the large-scale farmland market was shaping up to have strong interest this year.

"The last financial year we saw big sales in citrus and cattle properties,” he said.