Fifty bids received for Crafar farms, Natural Dairy confident its offer is best

KordaMentha, the receiver of 16 Crafar farms in the central North Island, says it has received more than 50 offers for all or parts of the farms but government owned farmer Landcorp is not among the preferred bidders.

(Updates add background on agreement between the receiver and Natural Dairy/UBNZ and comments from Natural Dairy vice chairman Graham Chin).

KordaMentha's Michael Stiassny and Brendon Gibson said they were pleased by the number and strength of the offers for the farm portfolio. The deadline for bids was last week after a public marketing campaign by Bayleys.

The farms, New Zealand's largest family owned dairy business, were put into receivership last October owing over NZ$200 million to Westpac, Rabobank and PGG Wrightson after interest.co.nz revealed animal welfare issues at the farms.

"Over 50 offers were submitted on all or parts of the portfolio from a range of buyers," Stiassny and Gibson said.

"The receivers regrettably advise that although Landcorp was one of the parties that submitted a tender, its offer was not among the preferred tenderers. Negotiations with the preferred tenderers will continue over coming days."

Landcorp said last month it would bid for the farms and raise debt to fund any purchase, but said it would bid less than the "above market" bid from the Chinese backed Natural Dairy/UBNZ group led by businesswoman May Wang.

The receivers have signed a sale and purchase agreement for the farms with UBNZ that is conditional on Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval and leaves the door open for them to accept a better offer or offers.

Natural Dairy vice chairman Graham Chin responded to the KordaMentha statement by saying he was confident his group's offer was the best deal for the receivers and creditors, as well as for New Zealand in terms of jobs, increased export revenues, tax and overall boost to the agricultural sector.

"Natural Dairy will engage skilled New Zealanders to manage and run these farms,” Chin said.

“People need to keep a sense of proportion. In the last 12 months the OIO has approved the sale of 80,000 hectares of land to foreign interests, our OIO application only relates to the purchase of just 8,615 hectares out of more than 2 million hectares of dairy farmland in New Zealand. It involves only 25,000 cows in a national herd of around 5 million cows.”

He said Natural Dairy was awaiting the OIO and the government ministers decision.

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