Australia reviews port lease to Chinese firm

Business | Reuters 4 May 2021

Australia is reviewing the 99-year lease of a commercial and military port in the country's north to a Chinese firm, a government source said yesterday, a move that could further inflame tensions between Beijing and Canberra.

Australia overhauled its foreign investment laws late last year, giving the government the retrospective power to impose new conditions or even force a divestment on deals that have already been approved.

Defence officials are looking into whether the Landbridge Group, which is owned by Chinese billionaire Ye Cheng, should be forced to give up its ownership of Darwin Port on national security grounds, the source told Reuters.

Landbridge, which has close ties to the Chinese military according to media reports, won a bidding process in 2015 to operate the port in a deal worth A$506 million (HK$3.03 billion).

"Advice has been sought on the port and that will go to national security committee in due time," a government source said..

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, which first reported the review, quoted Defence Minister Peter Dutton as saying the government would "look at options that are in our national interests after that."

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