8 Dec 2015

Council cleared to sell Aust dairy company

6:01 pm on 8 December 2015

New Plymouth District Council has been cleared to sell its biggest investment - a Tasmanian dairy company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Front of the building housing the New Plymouth District Council

New Plymouth District Council Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The sale of Van Diemen's Land to a Chinese buyer for more than $300 million can go ahead after a legal injunction blocking the sale was lifted.

The company owns more than two dozen dairy farms in Tasmania and has never been Australian owned, despite being Australia's largest dairy company.

It has nearly 20,000ha of farm and bush in Tasmania's north-west with 18,000 dairy cows and 12,000 heifers.

The New Plymouth District Council bought the company seven years ago and since then production of milk solids has surged from 3m to 8m kg, generating a 13 percent annual return for the ratepayers.

Mike Trousselot, chief executive of the council's investment arm, said Australian company TasFoods was a shortlisted bidder but Moon Lake investments, owned by billionaire businessman Lu Xianfeng, made an offer which was more than $30m higher.

"We've held it for eight years. It's increased in value substantially and it's now overweight in our investment portfolio so we're taking the opportunity of selling it," he said.

TasFoods had obtained the injunction to stop the sale, claiming the New Zealand owners breached a sales contract with it but the Victorian Supreme Court lifted the injunction yesterday.

The deal was subject to approval by Australia's foreign investment review board.

Mr Trousselot said the proceeds of the sale would be reinvested.