PSST, wanna buy a forest? Scottish Woodlands Limited is offering forestry investments in Scotland, and claims to be the first such company to establish a permanent office in Hong Kong. Michael Thornhill, formerly senior partner in local law firm Johnson Stokes and Master, will act as a conduit for the 25 existing Hong Kong clients and for enquiries. Since Mr Thornhill is about to become an investor in a Scottish forest and is also a former Jockey Club steward and twice captain of the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club, his suitability for the role would appear unrivalled. ''My job is to be the local contact, more easily reachable than the chaps in Scotland,'' he said. ''Hong Kong investors rightly demand a better service than can be provided by two people on twice-yearly visits from half way round the world.'' Colin Mann, of Scottish Woodlands, and Mark Gibson, of Edinburgh legal firm Brodies W.S., announced the new representative arrangement during a recent visit to Hong Kong. ''We had been coming to the territory twice a year for more than five years, but it was always desirable to have a full-time local contact for our clients and potential clients,'' Mr Mann said. As investment manager for Scottish Woodlands, Mr Mann explained the primary advantage of buying forests was the generous tax treatment offered in Britain, which continued to be Europe's largest timber importer. The total European timber import bill is about GBP14 billion (about HK$159 billion), with Britain accounting for half. ''For over 70 years, the British Government has been keen to encourage private forestry and has recently taken forestry investment almost completely out of the tax system,'' he said. ''There is no income tax, no capital gains tax on the timber crop and no inheritance tax. Yields have, historically, shown a return averaging six per cent above the rate of inflation.'' Tax-free government grants are also available for planting, restocking and natural regeneration of privately owned woodlands. ''A sensible level of investment can start from less than HK$1 million, although the cost of any forest will be based on a combination of acreage, maturity of trees and growth rates.'' In Scotland, the average maturation period from original planting is about 40 years, by which time each acre should yield about 200 tonnes of timber worth from GBP20 (about HK$230) to GBP25 per tonne. But Mr Mann stressed it was not necessary to wait for the trees to mature to realise the investment. ''The forest, which is growing and producing more timber every day, can be sold at any time because the market for such investments is well established in Britain,'' he said. Many woodland estates also offer additional sporting benefits, such as loch or river fishing rights, deer stalking and game shooting. Scottish Woodlands is offering a range of 14 forestry investments.