Landcorp 'indifferent' to Crafar ownership

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin still has a "live" offer on the receivers' table for the Crafar farms and is confident a court challenge to Government approval of its purchase will be overturned, says the farms' manager-in-waiting, Landcorp.

The state-owned enterprise's chief executive Chris Kelly was at Fieldays yesterday addressing a seminar on foreign and corporate ownership of New Zealand land.

He said that Pengxin hopes by the middle of next month that the challenge by a group of Kiwi farmers and iwi led by Sir Michael Fay will have been heard and defeated.

Landcorp, the country's biggest farmer, has been contracted to manage the 16 Crafar farms by Pengxin – the preferred bidder of receivers KordaMentha – whose $200 million-plus conditional offer has now been twice approved by the Government and its agency the Overseas Investment Office.

The deal is conditional on government consent but following the latest court challenge by Fay's group, Pengxin has declined to discuss at what stage its offer is at and whether Pengxin has made it unconditional.

The Fay group hearing is early next month.

Asked if he believed Pengxin would have got government consent if Landcorp was not contracted to manage the farms, Kelly said he did not like to "duck" questions, but he did not want to "second-guess".

Fay's group claims that Pengxin would not have got the green light if Landcorp was not involved in its application to buy the 8000-hectare farming estate.

Kelly implied that Landcorp's unsuccessful bid for the 16 farms was in line with an offer, also unsuccessful, from the Fay group for around $170m.

Landcorp, which "could be used as a political football", was "indifferent" to who owned the Crafar farms, some of which are in the Waikato and central Plateau, Kelly said.

"I don't spend a second of my time thinking about whether we own the farms or not – it's whether it is profitable for us [to run them]."

Waikato Times