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China tycoon slams Iceland over failed land bid

28 november 2011, 13:04
Iceland. Photo courtesy of tury.ru
Iceland. Photo courtesy of tury.ru
The Chinese tycoon behind a failed plan to buy a huge tract of land in Iceland has blamed prejudice against China for the rejection of the bid, AFP reports citing an interview published Sunday.

Iceland on Friday denied a request by property tycoon Huang Nubo to purchase a 300-square-kilometre (200-square-mile) swathe of land in the northern part of the island for a tourist resort.

"The denial reflects the unjust and parochial investment environment facing private Chinese enterprises abroad," Huang, founder of property company Zhongkun Group, said in an interview with the official China Daily newspaper.

Huang had asked the Iceland government in late August for permission to buy the land for $10 million, with plans to invest about $200 million to build a resort in the Icelandic wilderness.

Some Icelandic observers had suggested Huang's purchase could help China get a foothold in the Arctic region for energy resources and shipping, amid predictions the melting ice cap will make oil and gas deposits more accessible.

Speaking at his Beijing office on Saturday after learning of the rejection, Huang said the refusal was a loss for Iceland and Chinese investors.

He accused Western countries of being unfair by pressing Beijing to further open its markets while at the same time rejecting the advances of Chinese investors.

"There are still double standards," he said, adding that foreign countries "encourage the opening of the Chinese market while they close their doors to Chinese investments."

In rejecting the request, Iceland's Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson said approval would set an unwelcome precedent.

"We are talking about a land purchase on such a large scale that if we had agreed to an exemption one could say that the law was null and void and... that anyone who applied for an exemption after this would be allowed to buy, simply because of such a precedent," he said.

The refusal was unexpected, coming after Iceland's economic affairs ministry said it was favourable to Huang's plans and recommending the interior ministry approve the request.

Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir also said she regretted the decision, describing it as based on "a very narrow interpretation of the law", but that it was final and could not be appealed.

Since the land is partly owned by the government, approval is required for a non-resident of the European Economic Area to buy it.

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