21 Sep 2011

Receivers say Pengxin offer for Crafar farms still best

8:08 am on 21 September 2011

The receivers of the Crafar farms say a bid from a New Zealand-based group is not as generous as the one from a Chinese group.

The would-be buyers want to take over the 16 North Island farms owned by the Crafar family that were put into receivership in 2009 with debts of more than $200 million.

On Tuesday, a group of farmers and iwi led by Sir Michael Fay put in an offer of just over $171 million.

The group says its offer averages out at more than $28,000 a hectare, which would put the price in the leading bracket for dairy farm sales in the area and across New Zealand.

An earlier offer from the Pengxin International Group had already been accepted by receivers KordaMentha in April and is waiting for Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval.

Pengxin has indicated it would spend more than $200 million on buying the farms and dairy herds and upgrading them in the first two years.

A partner at KordaMentha, Brendon Gibson, says there has been a range of interest in the properties.

"The Pengxin offer is clearly the best and remains the best. We always have to consider other proposals put in front of us and we will go through our processes and then decide what we're going to do with this offer."

Pengxin's New Zealand spokesperson, Cedric Allan, says the group is confident it will get OIO approval and the sale will go through.

More information needed from buyers

The only thing holding up the sale is Overseas Investment Office (OIO) clearance and the receivers are still confident that will be given.

Sir Michael Fay accepts that until the office makes its decision his group's bid can only be seen as a backup offer. But he says it's based on current market values.

Pengxin subsidiary Milk New Zealand Holdings made the application to the OIO five months ago. OIO manager Annelies McClure says however that the application is complex and it has asked the company for further information before it can make a recommendation to the Government.

Iwi interests join new bid

About 40% of the new offer is being put up by Maori interests including the Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts that run sheep and beef farms south of Te Kuiti, near two of the Crafar farms.

Trust chair Hardie Peni says the organisations joined the bid with the aim of having traditional land returned, creating employment for some of their younger people and, under the right management and structure, having a commercially viable operation.

Mr Peni says the Trusts made a separate earlier bid for some of the Crafar farms but receivers rejected it.