The New Zealand government has blocked Hong Kong-listed Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings’ bid to acquire Crafar Farms has been rejected.

The future of Crafar Farms – and whether Natural Dairy would succeed in its pursuit of the business – has been uncertain for months.

That uncertainty grew earlier this month when it emerged that May Wang, the Natural Dairy vice president fronting the bid, had been declared bankrupt. However, the receivers of Carfar Farms still insisted that Natural Dairy’s NZ$200m offer to buy the business was still on.

Nevertheless, in a statement today (22 December), New Zealand government ministers Maurice Williamson and Kate Wilkinson rejected Natural Dairy’s bid to buy Crafar Farms. Their decision covered applications by Natural Dairy to acquire UBNZ Assets Holdings and 16 of the Crafar farms.

The ministers also declined consent to UBNZ Assets Holdings’s application to acquire the four Crafar farms it had agreed to purchase in February.

“We concur with the Overseas Investment Office’s recommendation that consent should be declined,” the Ministers said. “We will not be commenting further on our decision.”

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The Crafar farms, totalling 8000ha in the southern and central North Island, were put into receivership in October last year by their financiers. It owed NZ$200m.

The deal to buy 20 Crafar farms has been subject to OIO scrutiny as the watchdog determined that 16 of the farms were sensitive New Zealand assets and a foreign investment of more than NZ$100m required the body’s approval.