Carter Holt Harvey's 29 Central North Island dairy conversions slowly being sold; Nine gone so far at asking prices; All to NZers

Carter Holt Harvey's 29 Central North Island dairy conversions slowly being sold; Nine gone so far at asking prices; All to NZers

By Alex Tarrant

Twenty-nine Central North Island dairy farm conversions put up for sale two years ago by Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey are slowly being bought, with nine sold so far, all to local buyers.

But while the sales process appeared glacial, Carter Holt had been able to receive the asking prices it put on the farms, and there was genuine interest from both local and international buyers for the remaining 20 still on the block, the real estate agent marketing the farms told interest.co.nz.

Carter Holt put the 29 Tokoroa farms on the market in January 2010 after converting them from forestry land. Nine of the farms had initially been advertised in early 2009, but after only one sold the remainder were taken off the market during winter that year as finance for rural lending dried up.

The sale was billed at the time as the biggest ever corporate farming sell-off ever seen in New Zealand. The 29 "designer" farms had the potential to produce eight and a half million kilograms of milk solids a year from 25,000 cows, and had a combined asking price of NZ$224.5 million.

In January 2010, when announcing the 29 farms were on the market, Bayley's agent Mike Fraser-Jones told interest.co.nz there had been some interest in the properties, although buyers at the time were extremely cautious and doing a lot of due diligence on the farms.

Carter Holt Harvey spokesman Ross Townsend said at the time the company was happy to "go with the flow" in terms of a time-frame for selling the farms.

"We're just putting them out there for people to have a look at and putting up a whole selection of them. We're not even remotely close to being in distress, not even close," Townsend said.

Two years on, Fraser-Jones told interest.co.nz nine of the farms had been sold.

“We’re slowly picking them off," he said.

All nine had been sold as individual farms to local buyers, and the remaining 20 could either be sold individually or in groups.

The ones that had been sold had all gone for their asking prices, and it was up to the market to decide about prices for the remaining 20, Fraser-Jones said. There was local and international interest, with some from of that from ex-pat New Zealanders, he said.

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