Natural Dairy dumps vice-chairman, ponders next move on Crafar farms
By Paul McBeth
Dec. 9 (BusinessDesk) – Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings has dumped vice-chairman Graham Chin, leaving a question mark over his statements that the Hong Kong company is mulling options for its stalled bid to buy the Crafar dairy farms.
Chin was voted off the board at Natural Dairy’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday, yet today a statement was issued in his name by spokesman Bill Ralston saying it is seeking legal advice after the firm’s ‘agent’ in New Zealand, May Wang, was bankrupted by the High Court in Auckland. Ralston said he is trying to clarify the situation.
Shareholders in the Hong Kong-listed company that’s looking to buy up tracts of dairy farms in New Zealand were almost unanimous in their opposition to re-electing Chin to the board, and also elected not to reappoint executive director Yan Feng.
Wang was bankrupted over the failure of her property development group Dynasty. She was fronting the Natural Dairy via her UBNZ group of companies, and fell foul of the Serious Fraud Office, which is looking at the transaction between the two companies.
Natural Dairy was hoping to break into China’s high-end dairy products, where demand for quality goods has surged amid the melamine scandal in 2008, in what was to be a $1.5 billion buy-up of land and processing facilities, though the failure to immediately secure the Crafar farms scaled back those plans.
The case provoked a public backlash and forced the government to back down on opening up foreign investment rules, which instead clamped down on the Overseas Investment Office, particularly on farm sales. That came even while deals such as the sale of shares in Synlait to China’s Bright Dairy have passed unscathed.