OIO approves Wenita land sale

Wednesday 8 Aug 2018

The land beneath about 22,500ha of Otago forestry blocks has been sold to a specialist Australian forestry investment fund, for an undisclosed price, and the fund has also bought a 38% stake in Otago's largest timber producer, Wenita Forest Products. The land ownership has moved from a United States-owned fund to an Australian fund.

The Overseas Investment Office this week granted consent for the sale of 22,553ha of land from overseas US fund, Fund 7 Foreign LLC, owned by Boston- based The Rohatyn Group, to Australian ANZFF2 NZ Ltd, a subsidiary of New Forests Australia Forest Fund 2, of Sydney.

The cutting and management rights both remain with Wenita Forest Products, which has had them since 1990, and the land area remains under its control.

Wenita chief executive David Cormack said when contacted he expected few changes under the Australian governance, for either Wenita's 14 staff or more than 110 contractors it has involved in silviculture, harvesting, road building and transportation.

'It's business as usual for us. We're not expecting any major changes,' he said.

Wenita has blocks in Mt Allan, northwest of Dunedin, and a further 20 spread across Maungatua to Lawrence, and southwest down to Kaitangata and around Akatore, near the coast.

Industry sources understood the complex deal had been under negotiation for the past two years and the sale price was potentially 'well over $100million', but that had not been confirmed.

The Australian fund invests in New Zealand, Australian, Asian and US forests, and has has more than $A3.5billion ($NZ3.81billion) of assets under management, the OIO's June decisions statement said.

Wenita Forest Products is the largest producer of timber in Otago and its revenue last year was $73.8million.

The Rohatyn Group partner Ian Jolly said in a statement on its website it had bought the Wenita shareholding in 2005, in a joint venture with Chinese logistics company Sinotrans, and 100% of the Otago Land Company's land in 2006.

Part of the OIO consent includes retaining existing permitted land access, to evolve into unrestricted public access and also several conservation initiatives.

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Source: Otago Daily Times

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