22 Dec 2010

Government rejects Chinese bid for Crafar farms

8:45 pm on 22 December 2010

The Government has backed the Overseas Investment office and turned down a Chinese bid to buy 16 farms owned by Crafar Farms, which was put into receivership last year.

The farms' receivers had a conditional agreement for the sale of the 16 North Island farms to UBNZ Funds Management, which was buying the farms on behalf of a Hong Kong-based company, Natural Dairy.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson, acting for the Finance Minister, agreed with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), which had recommended the application be declined.

Criteria that had to be considered included the good character and the business background and acumen of the applicant.

The OIO wasn't satisfied that May Wang, who fronted the bid and has since been declared bankrupt, was of good character.

Sale of four other farms stopped

The ministers have also stopped the sale of a further four North Island farms bought in February by a related firm, UBNZ Asset Holdings, whose transactions with Natural Dairy are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

The office says it believes the investigation, launched in October, may disclose serious or complex fraud. The transactions in question relate to the proposed sale and purchase of the Crafar farms.

Natural Dairy has issued a statement saying it is assessing its options and is not prepared to comment at this stage.

The Crafar Farms receivers, KordaMentha, who have yet to see the ministers' decision, are also declining comment.