China tycoon sets sight on Norway, plans to invest US$111mil

SHANGHAI: A Chinese property tycoon shut out by Iceland after he sought to buy a vast tract of the country is turning his attention to Norway, he told AFP.

Huang Nubo, founder of Chinese property firm Zhongkun Group, said in a telephone interview that he still wants to develop high-end resorts in northern Europe and plans to invest 80 million euros (US$111mil) in Norway over the next five to 10 years.

Resource-hungry China has ambitions in the Arctic and until recently Beijing had dire relations with Oslo, but Huang denied his plans – which have proved controversial in the past – were politically driven.

In 2011, Reykjavik denied his request buy a huge wilderness area of Iceland for a tourist resort and nature reserve in a US$200mil investment, citing foreign ownership laws.

He put forward a request in 2012 to lease a much smaller plot of land, which is apparently still pending.

Huang denied he was abandoning his ambitions in the North Atlantic island nation.

“We did not drop Iceland, it’s just the progress is slow,” he said.

“I’m in no rush. I can wait after operations in other countries are more mature and then discuss it.”

Huang recently announced plans to donate a reported US$1.6mil to Norway’s KODE Art Museums of Bergen to recover seven white marble columns from a Chinese palace looted by foreign forces in the 19th century.

Chinese-Norwegian relations went into a deep freeze after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

But the Norwegian government’s controversial plans to avoid meeting Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama during his planned visit to the country later this month have been praised by Beijing.

China considers Tibet part of its sovereign territory and regards the Dalai Lama, also a Nobel laureate, as a separatist.

Huang denied the successful negotiation with the museum and Oslo’s rejection of a meeting with the Dalai Lama were behind his new investment push, though he admitted the political climate could be a factor in potential deals.

“We’ll definitely consider whether a country is friendly to China when we consider where to invest,” he said.

“If it (the Norwegian government) did meet the Dalai Lama, it would bring difficulties for my investment as the Chinese government would not approve the deal,” he added. – AFP

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