No formal offer made over Crafar farms
Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly - acting as agent for Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin on the potential sale of three Crafar farms to Maori trusts - refutes claims that negotiations were just window-dressing ahead of Monday's Court of Appeal hearing.
The Government has approved the sale of the 16 Crafar farms to the Chinese bidder but the Court of Appeal will now consider whether the correct process was followed after an appeal by New Zealand-based rival bidders, the Fay-led consortium which includes the Maori trusts.
Hardie Peni, chairman of the Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trust, claims Landcorp put an offer of $66.5 million on the table for the three farms, but it had a deadline of tomorrow and was conditional on the iwi withdrawing from the appeal. It was rejected by the iwi as being too high and Peni said he couldn't justify spending tribal funds that way.
But Kelly said no formal offer has been made - rather he had given both Peni and Nigel Baker from Tuwharetoa, which is negotiating to buy one of the farms, an indicative price which they could consider. He refused to say how much that was but said it was well under the $66.5m indicated by Peni.
He also denied there was any deadline, given that Shanghai Pengxin can't sell what it doesn't yet own, and was in no way connected to the iwi withdrawing from the appeal.
But Peni said Landcorp had indicated a price of $30m for the two Bennydale farms they wanted to buy and an additional $7.5m for stock, which was well below the iwi's own valuation of around $23m before due diligence it had carried out a year ago. He challenged anyone to be able to pay that price for the dairy farms and still be able to make a decent return from them.
While Kelly said the price was negotiable and he was awaiting formal offers from the iwi representatives, Peni said he'd been told the Chinese would be relatively inflexible on the price.
Shanghai Pengxin hasn't revealed what it paid for the 16 Crafar farms and stock but it is understood to be around $210m.
Peni was also upset that Landcorp had refused an iwi request to inspect the farms before making an offer. But Kelly said he'd told them permission would need to be sought from the receivers as Shanghai Pengxin had not yet taken possession of the farms pending the appeal.
Peni had also accused Landcorp of having a conflict of interest as manager of the farms and also handling the sale as the iwi wanted to farm the land themselves. But Kelly said there was no conflict because part of the management of the farms on behalf of the Chinese company was advising it on potential purchases and sales.
"I've said we will entertain offers and advise on those offers on their merits and make recommendations to Shanghai Pengxin."
One thing that is progressing is negotiations between Landcorp and the Crown over the return of sacred Maori sites on two of the farms.
The Overseas Investment Office approval for the sale was conditional on the wahi tapu sites being returned to the Crown.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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