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US billionaire's dairy float, Nats' succession, housing hiatus, unusual insolvency move and more

US real estate mogul Sam Zell is backing a $100 million dairy farm listing, highlighting foreign investors’ interest in New Zealand farms. He ranks 304 on the Forbes list of world billionaires with a net worth of $A5 billion.

Nicknamed the “Grave Dancer” for his ability to profit from distressed-asset investing, his empire includes stakes in sectors as diverse as hospitality, energy, transportation, finance, healthcare and communications.

Victoria Young reports that Dairy Farms NZ is emphasising the Texan “hybrid farming” experience of its chief executive, Owen Mansill, as it promises to invest in capital expenditure to generate more milk solids.

Election Day is still three weeks away and, for once, people have stopped talking about how long David Cunliffe is going to last as Labour leader after the polls close on September 20.

Instead, political correspondent Rob Hosking writes, there is heightened interest in succession planning at National, where frontbenchers Judith Collins and Steven Joyce are no longer the choice for a successor to John Key between.

Economists say National’s HomeStart policy is good politics but not a solution. It will push up demand and prices; the only question is by how much.

Housing is also the subject of a new thinktank report, which says the crisis will continue for decades and it won’t be solved by satisfying just the needs first-home owners. A much larger group is emerging.

In contrast with local views, Nick Grant reports that leading Australian home building company wants more projects because the environment is far better than at home.

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri is trying to shut down a case brought by its convicted Chinese importer, Victoria Young reports from her courts round.

Shanghai Neuhof wants more than $30 million from a breach of its alleged trade relationship with Zespri and wrongful termination of a contract

An Insolvency Service officer is bringing a private prosecution against a Christchurch businessman in unusual circumstances that former minister and NBR columnist Rodney Hide says throws doubt on hundreds of other charges.

He says this case has revealed the warrants of deputy Official Assignees do not allow them to prosecute. But 221 such charges have been laid in the past and the service has resorted to private prosecutions to get around this illegality.

“The Insolvency Service is all smoke and mirrors held together by bits of paper and string. It's a crock,” the Hidesight column says.