Chinese bidder hits out at anti-Chinese tone in New Zealand farm sales controversy


The Chinese company tied up in a controversial bid to buy 16 New Zealand dairy farms has hit out at what it calls "a campaign of half-truths" and anti-Chinese sentiment in coverage of its proposed purchase.

Shanghai Pengxin issued a statement Tuesday saying the bid to buy the 16 Crafar farms was much more open and transparent than that of the rival consortium that had successfully opposed the Chinese bid in court last week.

The Crafar Farms Independent Purchaser Group (CFIPG), led by former merchant banker Michael Fay, had pulled its bid to buy 16 central North Island dairy farms "out of thin air" and it was not open to the same level of scrutiny as Shanghai Pengxin, it said in the statement.

Shanghai Pengxin said nobody could hold CFIPG to account for its promises if it were successful in blocking the Shanghai Pengxin and the CFIPG offer of 171.5 million NZ dollars (143.57 million U.S. dollars) is nothing more than a "phantom bid."

"They can promise whatever they like, even though they have not done due diligence on the properties, because no-one could hold them to their promises, even if they ever succeed in having an offer for the properties accepted," Shanghai Pengxin spokesman Cedric Allen said in the statement.

"Our bid has been accepted by the receiver, and the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) will make sure we keep our promises if they give their approval following the current review."

Last week the High Court in Wellington issued a ruling setting aside the government's approval of the Shanghai Pengxin bid and ordered the OIO to reconsider its recommendation to government.

The judgment said the OIO had to consider overseas purchases according to whether they could offer greater economic benefits than New Zealand resident offers, rather than simply advise that the investment was a benefit in itself.

The Fay-led CFIPG made a new submission to the OIO that left its offer price unchanged, but adding it would spend 18 million NZ dollars upgrading the land over three years, which would lead to an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent improvement in production.

The receiver, KordaMentha, had previously rejected the offer as too low.

Shanghai Pengxin had reportedly offered 210 million NZ dollars for the farms and said Tuesday it would spend 18.7 million NZ dollars upgrading the farms.

If the deal were approved, Shanghai Pengxin would give New Zealand state-owned farming corporation Landcorp the opportunity to become involved in managing its sheep breeding operations in China.

"Other Chinese companies interested in investing in various sectors of the New Zealand economy are closely watching our bid to become involved in the dairy industry in New Zealand and will be encouraged if approval is given," Allen said.

"But like Shanghai Pengxin, they will also be disappointed to see the level of anti-Chinese sentiment expressed in the recent months and the lengthy, expensive and uncertain approval process will be discouraging."

The statement came a day after a 3 News Reid Research poll showed 76 percent of New Zealand voters want the government to tighten the rules on overseas-based foreigners buying the country' s land including a majority of government supporters.

However, Prime Minister John Key responded that New Zealand was a already difficult place for foreigners to buy land.

Key said the High Court decision over the sale of the 16 Crafar farms could have already raised the bar and made it harder, meaning the law had just been tightened anyway.


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