Australia: Economic Recovery Drives Amendments To Australia's Foreign Investment Policy

Last Updated: 20 November 2009
Article by Sean Rush

The changes to Australia's Foreign Investment Monetary Thresholds

The foreign investment screening framework has recently been reformed to help boost Australia's growth as the global economy recovers.

The changes allow private foreign investment in Australian businesses below $219 million to now proceed without the need for review by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

This article details the changes to the monetary thresholds, provides practical examples and considers the policy behind the changes.

The changes to Australia's Foreign Investment Monetary Thresholds

The Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations 1989 were amended on 22 September 2009 to increase the monetary thresholds that exclude certain private foreign investments from the foreign investment screening regime.

The changes provide that government approval is no longer required for certain acquisitions involving Australian corporations or businesses which are valued below the new monetary threshold of $219 million in the 2009 calendar year. The amendments also provide that the monetary thresholds are indexed on 1 January of each year.

Previously, a non-United States (non-US) foreign investor acquiring an interest in Australian corporations, businesses or assets was required to notify the FIRB when this interest was greater than $100 million. Equally, a non-US foreign investor acquiring an interest in foreign corporations with substantial Australian subsidiaries or assets, that is, where the Australian assets represent 50% or more of global assets (Substantially Australian) was required to notify the FIRB when this interest was greater than $100 million. These thresholds have now been increased to $219 million.

The monetary threshold for 'offshore takeovers', that is, investments in foreign corporations where the Australian subsidiaries or assets represent less than 50% of global assets has also increased from $200 million to $219 million before government approval is required.

United States (US) investors, being prescribed foreign investors under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Act), will now also find investment in prescribed sensitive sectors easier. Previously, a $110 million threshold applied to US investors investing in Australian corporations, businesses or Substantially Australian foreign corporations in the prescribed sensitive sectors. The following business activities make up the prescribed sensitive sectors:

  • media;
  • telecommunications;
  • transport (including airports, port facilities, rail infrastructure, international and domestic aviation and shipping services provided within, or to or from, Australia);
  • the supply of training or human resources, or the manufacture or supply of military goods or equipment or technology, to the Australian Defence Force or other defence forces;
  • the manufacture or supply of goods, equipment or technology able to be used for a military purpose;
  • the development, manufacture or supply of, or the provision of services relating to, encryption and security technologies and communications systems; and
  • the extraction of (or the holding of rights to extract) uranium or plutonium or the operation of nuclear facilities.

With the amendments, the $110 million threshold has increased to $219 million for US investors investing in Australian corporations, businesses or Substantially Australian foreign corporations in the prescribed sensitive sectors.

The amendments have also abolished the requirement for non-US investors to notify the FIRB when establishing a new business in Australia valued over $10 million.

The monetary threshold of $953 million for US investors acquiring an interest in an Australian business outside of the prescribed sensitive sectors has been retained and has not been altered by the amendments.

Do I need to notify the FIRB about my acquisition?

We provide the following examples to highlight the general changes made.

We are a French company acquiring the assets, and subsequently the control, of an Australian construction business. The total value of the acquisition is $190 million. Do we need prior government approval?

Before the amendments, the French company would have been required to submit an application to the FIRB for approval. Now, as the value of the acquisition is below the new $219 million threshold, FIRB approval is not required.

We are a US company acquiring 60% of the shares in an Australian environmental consulting business. The total value of the acquisition is $450 million. Do we need prior government approval?

The US company does not need FIRB approval for this investment. The monetary threshold for US investment in business activities outside the prescribed sensitive sectors is $953 million. This figure has not been altered by the recent amendments.

We are a US company acquiring the assets, and control, of an Australian telecommunications corporation. The total value of the acquisition is $250 million. Do we need prior government approval?

The US company would require FIRB approval as the investment is deemed to be within a prescribed sensitive sector. Prior to the amendments the threshold for investment in the prescribed sensitive sectors was set at $110 million. This has been amended to $219 million.

The policy behind the changes

The benefits of foreign investment are undisputed. To name just a few benefits, foreign investment encourages employment, economic growth and competition while improving skills and making new technology accessible to Australia.

As foreign economies recover from the global financial crisis, policies that encourage, rather than stifle, foreign investment in Australia are vital to our own recovery. The new monetary thresholds seek to do just this.

As Treasurer Wayne Swan stated when announcing the policy reforms, the amendments are aimed at 'streamlining Australia's foreign investment regime, cutting red tape and compliance costs, and improving Australia's competitiveness as a place to invest'.

Exceptional Service Award Winner | 2007 BRW-St George Client Service Awards
Australasian Legal Business 2008 Fast 10 Law Firms
EOWA Employer of Choice for Women 2004 - 2008

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.