Zhongkun chairman eyes Oslo hotel after Iceland project stalls

Property developer turns attention to Norway after US$200m resort project in Iceland stalls

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 12:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 12:59am

Chinese property tycoon Huang Nubo, whose planned US$200 million resort and mountain park in Iceland has been blocked because of foreign investment laws, is turning his attention to Norway.

Huang, who is chairman of Beijing Zhongkun Investment, said the company was in discussions to buy a hotel in Oslo and was looking for investments in other Norwegian cities as its planned project in Iceland had not made any progress. The company would invest as much as US$100 million in resorts and other tourism-related property in Norway, he said.

"The tourism industry in Norway is probably more mature" than in Iceland, Huang said on Wednesday. "Our commitment in Nordic countries is not changed. We plan to enter one or two countries first and then expand to the rest of Northern Europe, while we don't mind waiting for Iceland."

Huang first proposed the project in Iceland in 2011 as a launchpad for investments elsewhere in the Nordic region. The new Icelandic government, which was elected in April last year, is reviewing investment laws that had blocked his previous bids. Huang's company, one of the first Chinese developers investing abroad, said in 2011 that it planned to develop the resort and mountain park on 300 square kilometres of land.

"Northern European countries are actually still very conservative," Huang said. "They think Chinese investors are those nouveau riche who buy out everything everywhere. If it takes time for the investment, then we'll just do it slowly."

Huang's connection with Iceland started 30 years ago when he was studying at Peking University, he said in 2011. His roommate and friend back then was from the volcanic island and later married a politician. Huang donated US$1 million in 2010 to set up an Icelandic-Chinese poet exchange programme.

He donated US$1.6 million to a museum in Norway in exchange for the return of seven marble columns from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing to China.

"I felt very sentimental when I saw those relics in the museum and I think they should be returned to China," he said.