The notorious Crafar farms are attracting strong buyer interest in Asia - prompting Bayleys Real Estate heads to fly to China this week to discuss a potential deal.
The 16 North Island farms owned by brothers Alan and Frank Crafar have been in receivership since October, with the men amassing debts topping $200 million. Receivers KordaMentha have appointed Bayleys to sell the properties, with the portfolio comprising farms ranging from 128ha to 1750ha dotted around the North Island employing 200 staff.
Crafar operations have been prosecuted at least six times for animal welfare and dirty dairying practices. The latest court case was earlier this month for wrongly discharging effluent at its farm near Palmerston North. That resulted in a $40,000 fine.
The Sunday Star-Times understands Bayleys principal David Bayley and managing director Mike Bayley are flying to Asia this week to discuss the farms with possible buyers in China, Singapore and Hong Kong.
It is believed potential buyers want to purchase all 16 farms, but any deal would be subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.
Bayleys would not discuss the deal, but spokesman Scott Cordes said: "I can confirm they [David and Mike Bayley] will be out of the country this coming week, but because of client confidentiality, we are unable to name who we are meeting."
The sale of the farms, reputed to be worth about $100m, has also attracted the interest of Hong Kong businesswoman May Yan Wang, who was last week remanded on bail after appearing in Auckland District Court on three charges of breaching the Commerce Act which related to the collapse of Wang's Dynasty Group tourism venture in October 2008.
In their report on the company's finances, the liquidators said she had failed to meet her legal obligations to attend a liquidator's meeting and they had been unable to source authentic documentation to help them unravel the company's affairs. Wang is to reappear on July 14.
She is reportedly behind a group of overseas investors wanting to buy $1.5 billion of New Zealand dairy farms, including the Crafar farms.
Any deal involving foreign ownership of the Crafar farms would require Overseas Investment Office approval because farmland totalling 5ha or more is deemed sensitive under the Overseas Investment Act and therefore requires official approval.
Last week the Star-Times reported eastern North Island tribe Tuhoe was also interested in buying the land but so far no one from Tuhoe has come forward to reveal their interest. The Tuhoe Establishment Trust and the Tuhoe Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board have denied being involved in any bid.
Meanwhile, Alan Crafar remains on his Reporoa property despite being several weeks past the receiver's deadline to move out. Receiver Michael Stiassny said court action was in the process of being filed but it was likely to be "weeks" before Crafar could be evicted.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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