‘Let me buy Rio Tinto’: China’s brazen bid to buy our companies – by Peter Hartcher (Sydney Morning Post – September 11, 2018)


Within two days of being sworn in as the 38th Treasurer of Australia, Joe Hockey found himself in a traditional-style hut on the island of Bali. Chinese officials had been back and forth to the hut again and again to arrange to the last detail the meeting that Hockey was about to have with China’s finance minister.

But when Lou Jiwei entered, Hockey was utterly unprepared for his opening words. Lou shook the Australian’s hand, sat down, lit a cigarette without asking Hockey’s permission and said: “Why won’t you let me buy Rio Tinto?” the giant Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate.

It was Hockey’s first meeting with his Chinese counterpart, once ranked by Forbes magazine as the 30th most powerful person on earth. Recovering from his surprise, Hockey replied: “That’s fine – as long as you’ll let Qantas buy China Southern”, one of the Middle Kingdom’s big three airlines.

Lou, who had a history of buying foreign assets as the previous chair of China’s sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corporation, tried another angle. “All I want,” he told Hockey through an interpreter, “is to buy 15 per cent of your top 200 listed companies”, according to a person who was in the room during the entire September 2013 meeting on the sidelines of the APEC finance ministers meeting.

The Australian treasurer laughed at the brazenness of the bid. Lou then tried asking for authority to buy multi-billion dollar shareholdings in Australia’s major banks, prompting Hockey to suggest they move the conversation to a “more meaningful topic”.

For the rest of this article: https://www.smh.com.au/national/let-me-buy-rio-tinto-china-s-brazen-bid-to-buy-our-companies-20180910-p502rz.html

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