Chinese developer hopes to revive Iceland plans

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 3:30am

Mainland billionaire Huang Nubo is ready to put money into developing property in Iceland as the new government reviews investment laws that had blocked his previous bids.

"If we get a positive reply from the government, we can start the groundwork," Huang's Iceland-based spokesman Halldor Johannsson said. "We're waiting for feedback from the authorities."

The coalition of Independence and Progressive parties that won elections in April has signalled it may ease limits on foreign land ownership that had stymied Huang's earlier bids.

Huang had planned to spend US$200 million on developing a resort and a mountain park through his company, Beijing Zhongkun Investment.

The 300 square kilometres of land would become a platform from which to invest elsewhere in the Nordic region, Huang said in 2011.

Internal Affairs Minister Hanna Birna Kristjansdottir "has met representatives of Huang and explained to them that the laws on direct foreign investment need to be reviewed in their entirety", her spokesman said.

"Not in light of this particular matter only; that review will likely take place this winter."

To circumvent restrictions on foreign land ownership, local government representatives had sought to buy the property and lease it to Huang. That model also met resistance from the previous government.

Huang was now hopeful that a leasing arrangement would be accepted by the new government, Johannsson said.

Huang, who also has properties in California and Tennessee in the United States, is known for helping restore the 200-year-old Xidi and Hongcun villages around Huangshan mountain in Anhui province, which are now included on the Unesco world heritage list.

His firm built and operates resorts near the villages, the Beijing Zhongkun website says.

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has signalled the US$14 billion economy needs more investment to propel growth.

The country is still recovering from its 2008 financial meltdown, in which its biggest banks defaulted on US$85 billion in debt. The ensuing economic collapse sent the krona into a free fall and prompted the government to seek a bailout.

The land Huang wants to lease, in Iceland's north, is 75 per cent owned by six private individuals, while the state owns the rest.

Huang's initial bid in 2011 was rejected by owners representing 2.8 per cent of the land, according to state broadcaster RUV.