Australia Move to Block CK Deal Isn't the Norm, Prime Minister Says

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended a move to block Hong Kong-listed CK Group’s A$13 billion ($9.4 billion) bid for an Australian gas pipeline operator on national security concerns, saying it was an exception rather than the rule.

“The normal state of affairs is there’s been many, many approvals” for foreign investors, Morrison said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Sydney on Monday. The decision to block CK’s bid for Sydney-based APA Group last week “wasn’t about the nationality of the owner at all.”

Australia Move to Block CK Deal Isn't the Norm, Prime Minister Says

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last week said the bid would be blocked on concerns it would lead to an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a single corporate group in one of the country’s most significant gas transmission businesses. The decision came after the ruling coalition blocked several deals involving China-linked companies in the past three years, drawing ire from the government in Beijing.

Morrison said his administration remained more open to foreign investment than its neighbors. He plans to meet regional leaders this week during summits in Singapore and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

“We will always be the most liberalized foreign investment regime in this part of the world,” Morrison said. “You can invest in Australia more so than an Australian can invest in the rest of the region. So I wouldn’t describe the arrangements necessarily as reciprocal.”

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