9 Aug 2012

Crafar farms takeover likely in next 1 - 2 months

6:43 am on 9 August 2012

The Chinese company buying the Crafar farms is hoping to take over the 16 North Island farms within the next month of so, following the failure of an appeal against the sale.

A group of farming and iwi interests led by Sir Michael Fay, legally challenged the sale to Shanghai Pengxin for a second time, after the Overseas Investment Office and the Government confirmed their initial approval.

The group's appeal was based on the grounds that Shanghai Pengxin failed the test of business experience and acumen required to meet overseas investment conditions.

But in a decision released on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal and application for a further review.

Shanghai Pengxin spokesperson Cedric Allan says it's confident that it can now move on with the process of completing the sale and taking over the farms, which have been in receivership since 2009.

He says they want to introduce a programme of activity to improve the farms and eventually production, which involves improving the housing on the farm, fencing, herd quality and pasture, as well as conforming with all the restrictions imposed by the Overseas Investment Office.

Mr Allan says it's planning to spend $15 million on those properties in the next few years.

He says the farms' management will be by a 50-50 joint venture company which will be owned jointly by Landcorp and Milk New Zealand Holding, which is a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin.

Mr Allan says the 16 farms will continue to supply milk to Fonterra but Shanghai Pengxin will be talking to other processors as well about its plan for producing high value milk products for sale under its own brand in China.

He says the company also remains open to a further approach from Maori interests about selling them some of the farms.

Landcorp says legal requirements to be met

Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly says there a number of things which need to occur legally to satisfy the Overseas Investment Office, including setting up a 50-50 joint venture company.

He says there will be three directors from Landcorp and three directors from Milk New Zealand and it will have an independent chairperson.

Mr Kelly says the company will have varied roles, but one of the main ones is to oversee the management of Shanghai Pengxin's dairy activities in New Zealand which may include buying or selling one or two more farms.

He says it will also oversee and approve budgetary expenditure because under the OIO conditions Shanghai Pengxin is obliged to spend around $16 million to upgrade these farms.

Mr Kelly says the actual operations of the farm will be left to Landcorp and it will run the farms and own the stock.

He says once all the legal requirements have been met, Landcorp will take over managing the farms from the receiver.

"Upon settlement Landcorp itself will be buying all the cows off the receiver, as part of our sharemilking agreement. So one of the things that Landcorp and the receiver need to do is agree on the value of the cows, the condition of the cows, the fact that there are however many cows that we think there are and that sort of thing, so a lot of the new due diligence will be around the cattle".

Mr Kelly says there are about 14,000 cows on the 13 dairy and three dry-stock farms.