Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has blocked Hong Kong-based CK Asset Holdings Limited (CK Group) from acquiring Australia’s largest pipeline owner and operator APA Group (ASX: APA).

As we wrote in June, APA Group is the target of a near $13 billion takeover from a consortium of companies, led by Hong Kong-based CK Infrastructure Holdings Limited.

CK is Hong Kong-listed. The company was founded by Chinese-born billionaire Ka-Shing Li — Hong Kong’s richest family. CK has made a number of acquisitions in recent times, including in the UK and Europe. It also has investments in Australia.

In August, APA announced it had entered a binding agreement with CK which, among other things, meant APA shareholders moved one step closer to getting their $11 per share deal.

Frydenberg Says No

However, in an announcement yesterday, the treasurer said the size of APA’s extensive network of gas pipelines and infrastructure meant the deal shouldn’t go ahead.

“I have formed this view on the grounds that it would result in an undue concentration of foreign ownership by a single company group in our most significant gas transmission business,” Treasurer Frydenberg said.”

APA Group owns over half of Australia’s gas pipelines, with control of 74% of Victoria’s and New South Wales’ supply lines.

“I formed my preliminary view taking into account the significant analysis undertaken through a coordinated whole-of-government assessment and in close consultation with the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Critical Infrastructure Centre (the CIC), which are key sources of advice to support Government decision-making, including on investment transactions.”

Mr Frydenberg added that Australia welcomes foreign investment which is not contrary to our national interest.

“My preliminary view is not an adverse reflection on CK Group or the individual companies… My preliminary view reflects the size and significance of APA Group.”

The deal had hurt APA’s share price on Thursday as investors reacted to the news.

Frydenberg said he intends to make a final decision under the formal process within two weeks.

Meanwhile, APA Group said it will update its investors in due course.

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