Ola O.K. Giæver jr., the Norwegian pilot and businessman who closed a deal last May to sell 100 hectares of land in Lyngen, northern Norway, to Huang Nubo 黄怒波, tells local news site nord24 that the sale is not over. He doesn’t go into much detail about the reasons, but he makes clear this is none of Huang’s fault: “I only know that the Chinese aren’t making any investments until relations between Norway and China are in order.”
The last few episodes in Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo’s Icelandic saga saw his landlord-to-be, a company called GáF (for ‘Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum’) established by some northern Icelandic municipalities to help him rent the 300 km2 of barren land he had set his eyes on, spiral towards bankruptcy. People at the company decided to ask Huang straight up if he was still interested (‘paging Mr Huang‘), because otherwise it might be time to call it a day.
If Huang said anything in response, it must have been lukewarm at best because GáF are now saying they’ll abandon talks about the deal (RÚV).
In the home front, Mr Huang’s dispute with a local government over environmental permits for construction near Lake Qishu 奇墅 in Yi 黟 county, Anhui, seems not to have been resolved, at least judging from the fact that, as of today, he still appears in the Supreme People’s Court’s fine-dodger list (失信被执行人名单 or, as some prefer to translate, ‘List of Dishonest Persons subject to Enforcement‘). You can see the entry for him (his company Zhongkun 中坤 is listed separately) in a picture I twitted in October. My post from back then also offered his side of the story.
Officials from the local governments behind GáF ehf., a company created to purchase some Icelandic land and lease it to Huang Nubo, would like to know if he’s still interested in it (RÚV). If he’s not, the indebted company doesn’t serve much of a purpose.
They might just go and ask him. I don’t know if he has talked about Iceland in the last few months, but in the past he has been quite outspoken on what he sees as a lack of professionalism and respect towards foreign investors from the Icelandic authorities, while always adding he wants to go on with the project as soon as he’s allowed to.
Things aren’t going terribly well for GÁF ehf., the company established by a few northern Icelandic municipalities to buy 300 km2 of land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum and lease it to Chinese poet-magnate Huang Nubo. Huang has said he’ll be waiting for a government decision regarding changes in the legal framework for foreign investments. The current legislation is rather restrictive: as a non-EEA entity, Huang’s company is not allowed to buy land in Iceland, and even the maximum duration of a lease would be limited.
“In 2004, we were near a water reservoir outside Hongcun and saw the surroundings were so good that we should make them into a hotel resort.” Everyone at the moment seemed delighted that Zhongkun 中坤 chairman Huang Nubo 黄怒波 fancied the place so much, and the local authorities promptly provided all the approvals to let Zhongkun build a tourist resort there. They started building it, but then a drought came and the reservoir (Lake Qishu 奇墅 in Yi 黟 county, Anhui) was declared a source of drinking water, which implied construction couldn’t proceed on its shores without additional environmental permits. “That would bring a lot of trouble. Just as if we’d already got our marriage certificate and children had been born, and then you suddenly took the certificate away or announced it’s invalid. Tell me, should I go and sue the government?” The new people at the local government are also quite worried about the issue and are trying to think up a way out. Such constant changes to regulations are just “too absurd”.
Huang Nubo was referring, during an interview with Phoenix Finance (凤凰财经), to media reports about the Hongcun resort, which as of last month seemed to be defying a government order to stop operation and construction issued in January. The story first appeared on China Business Journal (中国经营报) in early September, and reached the Nordic news through an article by Ægir Þór Eysteinsson published last week on Icelandic online weekly Kjarninn, a rare case of Nordic media drawing on Chinese-language sources. Since then, it has also spread to Norwegian media, interested in Huang following his purchase of a 100 ha property in Lyngen.
Government sources interviewed for the Chinese article seem to justify Huang’s complaints. The rediscovery of lake Qishu as an important water source in need of environmental protection seems to have happened only in 2009, well after Huang’s project had been approved. Huang is at any rate not alone in noting the unpredicability and fuzziness of Chinese regulations, especially at the local level. Since the tourist resort is already partially in operation, the plan seems to be to pump away any waste it generates so it doesn’t go into the lake, rather than closing it permanently.
Huang doesn’t have anything too specific to say about some other issues, arguably more serious, reported by China Business Journal (and also reflected in the Icelandic and Norwegian articles): that a Zhongkun group company misused misused funds from an ICBC loan, resulting in an investigation by the Huangshan branch of the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC, 中国银行业监督管理委员会). There’s also the allegation that the company’s worth was grossly overreported in order to apply for bank loans. In the Phoenix interview, Huang admits that the CBRC investigation exists, but doesn’t have much to comment beyond assuring that all the funds meant for the Hongcun investment were indeed invested there.
Finally, we have the headline-worthy fact that Huang Nubo and Zhongkun have made it into what I’m calling a ‘fine-dodger blacklist’, and which a loosely Peking University-affiliated legal database more colourfully translates as the “List of Dishonest Persons subject to Enforcement” (失信被执行人名单). The list, published by the Supreme People’s Court since last year, includes people and companies that have failed to honour effective verdicts and Zhongkun and Huang are indeed in it since late July. I found them yesterday on page 2900-something, and today they might have sunk a bit deeper since entries are seemingly added at a rate of over a dozen a day.
Huang’s inclusion in The List is prominently mentioned by the Chinese and Nordic articles, but it had already been making the rounds on the Chinese Internet since at least August.
I often write about Huang Nubo, everybody’s favourite poet-tycoon-mountaineer.
Icelandic MPs Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Ögmundur Jónasson, from the Left Greens, have drafted a motion asking for the state to buy Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum, the plot in NE Iceland Huang Nubo has been trying to buy for a few years.
Ögmundur himself, now in opposition, was the minister who denied Huang permission to buy the plot back then.
Norwegian minister of trade and industry Monica Mæland, who today started her first visit to Svalbard, told Svalbardposten she hopes her government will soon be able to purchase Austre Adventfjord, a privately owned 200 km2 plot put on sale a few months ago. The owners, the Horn family, are involved in a dispute with Store Norske, Norway’s state-owned coal miner on Svalbard, and say they only decided to look for a private buyer when negotiations with the government failed. The possibility of that chunk of Svalbard ending up in foreign hands (citizens of all Svalbard treaty signatories can own property on the islands) has unnerved some in Norway and might motivate part of the government’s interest in buying it themselves.
One Svalbard treaty signatory is China, and at a point Norwegian broadcaster NRK aired an interview with Chinese real-estate tycoon Huang Nubo about his interest in purchasing Austre Adventfjord. After the Horns categorically rejected having had any contact with Huang, the interview was referred to a misunderstanding NRK blames on Huang.
More on Austre Adventfjord here.