Shanghai Pengxin head exits NZ farming operation's board

Hunan Dakang to appoint its own director after Chinese billionaire stepped down. 

Chinese billionaire Jiang Zhaobai has left the board of his New Zealand farming operation, though he isn't giving up on the nation's agribusiness sector.

Mr Jiang retired as a director of Milk New Zealand Holdings, the vehicle which owns the former Crafar family farms, on November 1, Companies Office filings show. However, he's still a director of a separate holding company that bought the former Synlait Farms group.

Mr Jiang's Shanghai Pengxin ventured into New Zealand's farming in 2012 when it bought the Crafar farms out of receivership and later went on to buy the Synlait farms. However, last year its plans to buy the Lochinver Station near Taupo was rejected by the government against an Overseas Investment Office recommendation, and Pengxin later ditched plans to buy other farms in Taupo and Northland.

Those acquisitions were to be a precursor to Pengxin selling its interest in 55%-owned subsidiary Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co, a Shenzhen-listed company, and grant Hunan Dakang management rights over its interest in Synlait Farms. The effect would have been to reduce Shanghai Pengxin's interest in Crafar and Lochinver to 55% from 100%, bringing on board other Chinese investors via the listed entity.

Pengxin went ahead with the restructure despite the deals falling through, receiving OIO approval in August after a 22-month wait.

"The reason the chairman is no longer a director of the holding company is because he believed it appropriate to enable Hunan Dakang to appoint its own director," a Milk NZ spokeswoman says. "Jiang Zhaobai remains committed and supportive of New Zealand's agribusiness sector."

Pengxin has since turned its efforts to developing a processing factory to produce long-life yoghurt but hasn't been able to find a local investor to buddy up with that would meet OIO requirements.

That's prompted Pengxin to seek revised conditions on its investment allowing it to develop a factory on its own with limitations on the amount of milk it would take. However, the company has again faced a slow response by regulators.


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