Ex-Crafar farm buy a 'strategic purchase'

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:14 04/02/2014

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Higgins Group has confirmed it is buying a former Crafar farm on the Manawatu River for $5.6 million while court proceedings against one of the former owners are still in motion.

At an auction in Palmerston North recently, three separate bidders fought to buy 834 Napier Rd - between Te Matai Rd and Raukawa Rd - which was formerly owned by May Wang's UBNZ Assets Holdings.

An earlier than normal settlement for the seven-title property has been agreed on and Frances Holdings Ltd - owned by Higgins Group Holdings Ltd - takes over the property on March 14.

Wang and Jack Chen are accused by Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption of attempting in 2009 to buy the collapsed Crafar farm group for $375m, and then onsell the farm properties to Hong Kong listed company Natural Dairy Holdings for $500m. It is alleged false accounting records for the farms were prepared, overstating their profits by $50m.

It is alleged Chen gained $23.5m from these activities and Wang about $201.6m.

New Zealand courts in September formalised an asset freeze against the pair, put in place at the request of Hong Kong authorities.

Higgins Group chief executive David Geor said the 143-hectare, 62-paddock dairy farm was a strategic purchase.

Higgins Aggregates owns land bordering the farm on Te Matai Rd and Frances Holdings owns adjoining land to the east.

"It's logical for us," Mr Geor said. "We own adjoining land and we mine alluvial gravels. This is a workable dairy farm with alluvial gravels under it so it's a strategic purchase. We wished to own it and now we do."

The property includes a 52-bale herringbone cowshed, a haybarn, implement shed and a modern seven-bay calf shed, three concrete silage bunkers and a 450-cow feed pad.

There are two houses on the property, a main five-bedroom home and a three-bedroom cottage.

The farm was marketed by Dean File and Bill Milham of Bayleys and Mr File said yesterday it was one of the biggest sales the company had done in the Manawatu region in the past 12 months.

QV records show the property had a capital value of $5.36m and was last sold in 2008 for $6.63m.

A piece of the Raukawa Rd to Te Matai Rd section of the Ashhurst to Palmerston North shared cycle and pedestrian pathway is earmarked to go through the farmland. Higgins has been supportive of the path.

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- Manawatu Standard

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