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Chinese investors seek clearance to buy Gulf’s Hobbs Wharf

Chinese investors seek clearance to buy Gulf Corp.’s Hobbs Wharf

By Paul McBeth

Aug 12 (BusinessDesk) – Chinese investors have sought Overseas Investment Office approval to buy the Hobbs Wharf development in Whangaparoa from Gulf Corp., which failed owing $155 million.

Top Harbour Ltd., a locally incorporated company, has lodged an application with the OIO to buy various properties in the failed Gulf Corp. group of companies, and that is currently being assessed, according to an OIO spokesman. Three of the company’s directors have registered addresses in Shanghai, one in Hong Kong, with local Tony Lee rounding out the board.

Lee’s Westlake Investment Ltd. is acting as the holding company, having replaced previous shareholder Harbour Paradise Ltd. in May, according to Companies Office documents.

Receiver Tim Downes of Grant Thornton told BusinessDesk the sale price was commercially sensitive and couldn’t be disclosed. The proceeds of the sale will go towards paying down Gulf Corp.’s secured creditors.

BOSI Security Services Ltd. is owed $118 million and Allied Farmers Investments Ltd., which took on the Hanover Finance loan book, is owed $37.8 million, according to the latest receiver’s report. Starline Utilities Ltd. is also owed $179,000 as a secured creditor.

The application comes amid growing unease over the level of foreign ownership in New Zealand, particularly sales of farmland to Chinese buyers. That prompted the Chinese Embassy to launch a so-called ‘Green Tea offensive’ this month, with political counsellor Cheng Lei trying to allay any local fears over foreign investment.

Gulf Corp., Gulf Corp. No. 1 Ltd., and Matapia Holdings own blocks of land under eight separate titles, the receiver’s report said. “It appears that no funds will be available to meet the claims from unsecured creditors.”

The receiver is also waiting on a High Court judgement in relation to a $1.2 million GST refund.

BOSI, formerly known as Bank of Scotland International, called in receivers in December 2009 after Auckland property developer Jamie Peters was declared bankrupt. Work on the development stalled in 2009 when funding dried and BOSI stopped injecting new cash amid the global financial crisis.

Peters bought the Gulf Harbour land for a reported $57 million in 2000 from Singaporean investors.


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