Shanghai Pengxin has nous to run farms – court

The Court of Appeal is satisfied that Shanghai Pengxin has the nous to run what were the Crafar farms.

The Court of Appeal has turned down a bid by merchant banker Michael Fay and two Maori trusts to stop the sale of 16 Central North Island farms, saying it was satisfied with the general business acumen and experience of the Chinese buyer.

Judges Mark O’Regan, Terence Arnold and Douglas White dismissed the judicial review, saying Jiang Zhaobai’s ability to bring himself from humble beginnings to become “a person of some stature in the Chinese commercial world,” would satisfy the minister making the decision in approving the sale of the Crafar family farms.

“The information provided to the ministers was sufficient to enable them to determine that he and the other controlling individuals had generic business skills and acumen relevant to the Crafar farms investment,” Judge Arnold said in delivering the judgment.

“We see nothing in the language, taken in context, to indicate that Parliament had in mind that an investor must have any particular combination of the requisite skills and experience,” the judgment said.

Agri-business experience was only one factor which needed to be taken into consideration.

 “While apparently important, it did not lead to a conclusion that was insupportable or unreasonable in the absence of that experience.”

The judges said even if the ministers erred in accepting Pengxin’s agribusiness investments, “it is unlikely that we would have exercised our discretion to grant a remedy.”

That’s because the ministers decided the foreign investment would have a substantial benefit to New Zealand, the deal hasn’t been settled and creditors are still waiting on repayments, and that the farms are being operated by the receiver in a manner than presumably “involves minimal further investment.”

Those who oppose the purchase forget about the creditors who are owed millions of dollars. The higher the purchase price, the more the creditors will recover.

I don’t think the state should be farming but Landcorp farms are generally well managed. Their experience and Shanghai Pengxin’s money should be good for the farms and the stringent conditions imposed by the Overseas Investment Office will result in benefits for the country too.

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