One application was refused this month.
Harry McMahon Wirth of the U.S.A. was refused approval to acquire land on the West Coast. The details of the land and the price have been suppressed. He intended to “acquire the land primarily as a lifestyle/recreational property. It was proposed that the applicant would reside on the property for approximately six months each year.” The application failed because it did not meet the policy for purchasing lifestyle properties, which requires the applicant either to take up permanent residency within 12 months or to undertake significant development of the property and convert it into a viable investment property.
International Malting Company LLC has approval to acquire Canterbury (NZ) Malting Company Ltd, the “main New Zealand producer of lager malt”, for a suppressed amount. International Malting is owned 60% by Lesaffre Malt Corporation of France and 40% by Archer Daniels Midland Company of the U.S.A. Top executives of ADM, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world, are currently making headlines in the U.S. due to their convictions for conspiracy to fix prices on a spectacular international scale. CAFCA has written to the OIC, pointing out that this appears to be in clear breach of the requirement that those controlling investments be of “good character”, which is the basis on which this approval has been given.
Canterbury Malting’s previous owners were the two main breweries in Aotearoa, both overseas companies, Lion Nathan and DB (in equal shares). Lion Nathan Ltd is 45% owned by Kirin Brewery Company Ltd of Japan, part of Mitsubishi. The DB Group is 75% owned by Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd, which is 40% owned by Heineken NV of the Netherlands and 40% by Fraser, Neave Ltd of Singapore. The remaining 20% is in small shareholdings in Singapore.
The recent story of Canterbury Malting is a sad one. One of only three surviving malthouses in Aotearoa, its primary customers were the two breweries which owned it. It even commissioned Crown Research Institute, Crop and Food Research, to develop its own high yielding, dual purpose malting and feed barley, Valetta, tailored to local conditions (see http://www.crop.cri.nz/psp/broadshe/valetta.htm).
However, its Achilles’ heel – which should have been a strength – was its substantial export market to Japan, which took about one third of its output. After Kirin took control of Lion in its controversial raid in 1998, it treated Canterbury Malting’s exports as a threat to its own Japanese production and stopped the exports. The result was the closure of one of Canterbury Malting’s two production facilities, in December 1999. To add insult to injury, it was the Canterbury one, in Heathcote Valley near Christchurch, with 130 years of history. The direct loss was 18 jobs, but that followed another 20 redundancies earlier in the year as a result of the loss of the export market (Press, “End of era as malting company closes”, 31/8/99, p.3; “Malting facilities sold to U.S.A.”, 11/7/00, p.6; http://www.breworld.com/NEWS/COMPANYNEWS/STORIES/11677.htm, 3/9/1999, “The Canterbury Malting Company Announces Closure”). Its remaining production facility is at Marton (on five hectares of land) and a storage facility at Ashburton.
Its new ownership may be even sadder. ADM, as well as being one of the largest agribusinesses in the U.S.A. (it is that country’s leading corn processor for example), has one of the dirtiest records for price fixing, and a long history of political meddling. So much so that it has the dubious privilege of recently having had a book published about its latest price-fixing scandal: “Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, The Supermarket to the World”, by James Lieber (Four Walls, Eight Windows, 2000). In a review of the book, Russell Mokhiber (editor of Corporate Crime Reporter) and Robert Weissman (editor of Multinational Monitor) summarised the events it covers as follows:
“In October 1996, ADM pled guilty to antitrust crimes and was fined US$100 million. Senior vice presidents Michael Andreas, the son of Chairman Dwayne, and Terrence Wilson were convicted of antitrust crimes in 1999 after a trial in federal court in Chicago. They were sentenced to three years in prison each.”
That’s fairly serious stuff. The crimes involved the two former ADM executives conspiring with four Asian competitors to rig the US$650 million-a-year market for lysine, a lucrative livestock-feed additive made by ADM: without any exaggeration, an international conspiracy of huge proportions. The U.S. action was not the end of the matter. On 7/6/00, the Wall Street Journal (“EU Fines Archer Daniels Midland And Asian Firms for Price Fixing”) reported that:
“The European Union on Wednesday fined Archer Daniels Midland Co. and four Asian companies a combined 110 million euros (US$105 million) for their involvement in a price-fixing scheme.”
ADM was fined the lion’s share, at 47.3 million euros. ADM has a history of this sort of behaviour, as the report continued:
“The investigation found that the five companies fixed lysine prices world-wide, including in the EU. The investigation also determined that the companies fixed sales quotas for the EU market and exchanged information concerning those quotas from ‘at least’ July 1990 through June 1995.
The fines stem from a probe that began in 1997 when ADM disclosed the EU was conducting an inquiry into the grain-processing giant’s European units and other companies. Wednesday’s announcement is the latest blow to the Decatur, Illinois, agribusiness, which has been found guilty of price fixing in the past.
In 1996, the U.S. Justice Department fined ADM $100 million after the company pleaded guilty to fixing prices for lysine and citric acid. In 1998, ADM also paid a fine of 16 million Canadian dollars (US$10.83 million) for price fixing on the Canadian market.”
And the story goes on. Close observer of U.S. agribusiness, Al Krebs, in his 18 October 2000 Agribusiness Examiner (number 91) quotes New York Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald on “the growing scandal of the genetically engineered corn seed StarLink, which is not fit for nor has it been approved for human consumption”. This has recently made the news in Aotearoa, following concerns raised by Greens MP, Sue Kedgely, that the contaminated corn might have been in taco products on sale here. Eichenwald wrote:
“Millions of bushels of the unapproved corn, known as StarLink, have been found in flour delivered to more than 350 grain elevators around the country… StarLink corn was first found last month in store-bought taco shells distributed under the Taco Bell brand by Kraft Foods, which issued a nationwide recall. On Wednesday, a similar finding was made in house-brand taco shells sold by the Safeway supermarket chain. The two products were made of yellow corn from the same mill, run by Azteca Milling in Plainview, Texas.
Yesterday, Mission Foods, which produced the Safeway shells, announced a recall of all its tortilla products made with yellow corn on the chance that some might contain StarLink corn. The company, a subsidiary of the Gruma Group of Mexico, which is based in Irving, Tex., sells products under the Mission name as well as numerous private-label brands … Azteca Milling, also a Gruma subsidiary based in Irving, announced its own voluntary recall of all yellow corn flour yesterday.”
But, Krebs points out, “What Eichenwald does NOT report in his story is that the company, Gruma Group of Mexico, is a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland whose mills located in Texas ground the corn used to produce the taco shells.” He says Eichenwald has claimed that he controls what is printed in the New York Times concerning ADM. Things then get more sinister:
But the StarLink contamination has also raised other questions relative to ADM’s role in this latest scandal. One long-time ADM critic Nick Hollis of the Agribusiness Council poses a rather thoughtful question in that regard.
Could ADM, as the nation’s largest corn processor, Hollis asks, “be using its ‘inside info’ on which food processors are receiving the tainted flour (from their milling operations) to ‘plant problems’ and sabotage the food from certain companies which had stood up to them several years ago during the civil phase of the pricefixing case on lysine?”
Hollis notes that Kraft Foods was one of the biggest “holdouts” in the civil case, requesting more damages from ADM as a result of pricefixing. Kraft had led a group of dissenting companies, including Hudson Foods and others in the “holdouts” column and, as a result, they did receive more settlement money.
“While this was underway,” he adds, “a story broke in November 1997 in the Chicago Tribune, by Nancy Milman which pointed out Kraft’s efforts to get the U.S. Department of Justice action surrounding allegations that Dwayne Andreas himself had used coercion and bribes to derail a cooperative from building a high fructose corn syrup facility in North Dakota (which would have supplied Kraft).
“This story dried up as key witnesses suddenly refused to talk about their meeting with Dwayne. If you look carefully at Aventis, a key focus of the corn shell recall, you may find a similar disturbing pattern since just a few days ago, this company was mentioned within a larger group of firms settling a civil suit on pricefixing of vitamins.”
The intrigue is lent credibility by ADM’s long history of political connections, particularly through its Chairman, Dwayne Andreas. Eichenwald describes it (presumably with considerable understatement) like this:
“Since the time of Thomas E. Dewey – the former New York Governor and Republican Presidential candidate who, when he was a lawyer in private practice, served as an adviser to Dwayne Andreas – Archer Daniels has been a strong political force. With an ease that bred envy among other corporations, the $9.2 billion food industry giant navigated between the Republicans and Democrats while helping to form this country’s agricultural policies.”
(New York Times, “Former Archer Daniels Executives Are Found Guilty of Price Fixing”, 18/9/98, p.A1)
“Forming this country’s agricultural policies” includes an important role in gathering subsidies and in forming the U.S. policies in world trade negotiations.
Washington Post reporter, Steven Mufson described the politics in more detail (Washington Post, “Andreas Steps Down; ADM Chief Took Politics to a New Level”, 26/1/99) when Dwayne Andreas stepped down as Chairman (but remained on the board) in the wake of the scandal. He began his article, “Dwayne O. Andreas, the grain company executive who pioneered the art of political campaign contributions and built one of the country’s biggest food-processing empires, stepped aside yesterday as chairman of Archer Daniels Midland Co.”
“It was a wistful day,” said Democratic insider Robert S. Strauss, a long-time Andreas friend and ADM director, after the company’s board meeting in Bal Harbour, Florida., yesterday. Strauss said Andreas “was a player on the global stage before most people could spell ‘global.’”
But to his critics, Andreas cultivated a network of relationships to secure foreign deals for his company and protect direct and indirect U.S. government subsidies for many of his products, such as the corn-based ethanol added to gasoline.
“Andreas has been a truly historical figure, a charter member of the world of campaign finance abuses,” said Fred Wertheimer, a lobbyist for campaign finance reform. “He may not have paid the price for it, but the country has – through the corrupt system that undermines public trust and provides improper influence for special interests at the expense of citizens and taxpayers.”
“Archer Daniels Midland . . . has been the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history,” said a 1995 study by Cato Institute analyst James Bovard. “ADM and its chairman . . . have lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return have reaped billion-dollar windfalls from taxpayers and consumers.”
Bovard cited federal protection of the domestic sugar industry, ethanol subsidies, subsidized grain exports and other programs.
He gave “lavishly” to both Democrats and Republicans – at one time donating both to Nixon and to his opponent in the 1968 election, Hubert Humphrey. And
Nixon secretary Rose Mary Woods testified in a deposition to the Watergate prosecutors that Andreas delivered an unmarked envelope containing US$100,000 worth of US$100 bills in 1972. As the Watergate investigation closed in on Nixon, the president gave back the money, which had been in a White House safe.
He quotes a former ambassador, saying he watched “Andreas hold court for American politicians, Russian apparatchiks and American labour union leaders in his Florida hotel apartment. A Merrill Lynch stock analyst recalls being forced to wait in an outer office while Andreas took a call from Britain’s then-prime minister.”
Mufson says ADM “employs 23,000 people worldwide, owns 274 processing plants and has shareholder equity of US$8.5 billion. It possesses one-third of the nation’s soybean processing capacity, is the largest producer of natural vitamin E, and makes more than a third of the nation’s ethanol.” He quotes a Merrill Lynch analyst saying that ADM “possesses the nation’s largest fleet of barges, state-of-the-art plants, and a completely integrated, very efficient system.”
ADM’s joint venture with Lesaffre was formed in mid 1998, and combined their malting operations: ADM’s U.S. facilities of Fleischman Malt in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Red Wing, Minnesota, and Lesaffre’s U.S. Froedtert Malt facilities in Milwaukee and Winona, Minnesota (http://www.smallgrains.org/dtnfiles/070898.htm, quoting Reuters). Lesaffre can therefore have had no illusions about the nature of ADM when it formed the joint venture.
International Malting Company operates barley malting plants in the United States, Canada and France, according to ADM (Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K filing for 30 June 1998: http://www.secinfo.com/d6T3.7y.htm).
Lesaffre is more specialised than ADM, saying on its web site that “the business activities of the Lesaffre group have developed essentially around the culture of yeast and the experience gained in fermentation technology, without forgetting its original activity: ethanol production.” It describes itself as the world market leader in yeast production and production of yeast extracts and autolyzed yeast, and “one of the world leading malt producers” with operations in France, United States, Canada and Australia. The Lesaffre family in France founded it in 1853 as a major producer of grain and sugar beets. It says it is a “totally independent, privately owned company operating on five continents and in more than 180 countries with nearly 4,000 employees” (see http://www.lesaffre.com/Eng/Institutionnel/i_metiers.htm, and http://www.saf-agri.com/english/about.htm).
Singapore Airlines Ltd, which is 55% owned by the Singapore Government and 45% in public listings in Singapore, has approval to acquire 25% of Air New Zealand Ltd, New Zealand’s national airline. The shares were sold at a price “to be advised”, by Brierley Investments Ltd, bringing the overseas ownership of the airline from 48.16% to 54.84%. According to the OIC, Brierley Investments is owned 40% in Aotearoa, 20% by Camerlin Group Berhad, registered in Malaysia but with Indonesian and other shareholding, 6.7% Franklin Resources Ltd of the U.S.A., 6.4% the Singapore Government, and 26.9% other “persons who may be ‘overseas persons’”.
Air New Zealand controls significant areas of land in sensitive areas – 209 hectares freehold and 4,803 hectares leasehold:
· 22 hectares freehold at Remarkables Ski Area Road, Otago
· 37 hectares freehold at Manapouri Airstrip, Southland
· 150 hectares freehold at Pukaki Airstrip, Canterbury
· 323 hectares leasehold at Rastus Burn Recreation Reserve and Coronet Peak Recreation Reserve, Otago
· 4,481 hectares leasehold at Mt Hutt Ski Area and Mt Cook Aerodrome, Canterbury
The purchase was the outcome of a series of high-stake corporate manoeuvres. Singapore Airlines was a competitor against Air New Zealand early in 2000 for the 50% of Ansett Australia owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd. Air New Zealand owned the other 50%. When Air New Zealand took up its pre-emptive right to the 50% share ($715 million), Singapore turned its eyes towards Air New Zealand itself, encouraged by a welcome mat from BIL (Press, 30/3/00, “Brierley keen on Air NZ-SIA link”, p.14). Qantas was also interested in taking a share of Air New Zealand, reportedly willing to spend up to A$1 billion ($1.23 billion), but BIL seemed relatively luke-warm, fearing it would be forced to dispose of Ansett because of competition concerns (Press, 3/4/00, “Qantas 'ready to spend $1b'”, p.30; 5/4/00, “Thumbs up for Air NZ buyout of Ansett Aust”, p.21).
The New Zealand Government, fresh from dealing to foreign investors on the purchase of Sealords from BIL (see our commentary on the May 2000 decisions), played nice guy and consented to Singapore Airlines buying an initial 8.3% in a 300 cents per share offer that was “rushed” by shareholders other than BIL (Press, 11/4/00, “Purchase given Govt consent”, p.3; 12/4/00, “SIA in Air NZ stake”, p.24).
Government consent was required because Air New Zealand holds landing rights as national carrier which would be lost if overseas ownership in it grew too high. It owns a “Kiwi share” which gives it veto rights to maintain this position. The limit on foreign ownership is currently 49%, with no more than 25% owned by a single foreign shareholder. There are two classes of shares: A shares (51% of the shares) can be owned only by New Zealand residents or companies, and B shares (49%) which can be held by any investor. BIL had several years ago done a highly dubious deal with the OIC whereby a wholly owned subsidiary, BIL NZ Assets Ltd, was treated as a New Zealand company on the basis that its directors were New Zealand residents and that it was “controlled by New Zealanders” (for details, see “It’s Official: Bireley Investments is an Overseas Company”, by Bill Rosenberg, Foreign Control Watchdog, no. 84, May 1997, pp.14-19). That allows it to own both A and B shares. By April 2000, it owned 16.7% of Air New Zealand in B shares, and the rest in A shares.
The Government then approved Singapore Airlines raising its stake to the maximum 25% by buying a further 16.7% from BIL (its B shares), leaving BIL with 30% and effective overseas ownership of Air New Zealand of at least 55% – and probably more amongst the remaining 24% of B shares. An interesting interpretation a limit of 49% overseas ownership (Press, 19/4/00, “Govt backs Air NZ sale”, p.24). Singapore Airlines in fact wanted to buy further shares, but the government refused permission – for the time being. Nonetheless, BIL gave Singapore Airlines a veto over its remaining Air New Zealand shares should it decide to sell them. The price was $285 million for the 16.7%, but with agreement to pay more if Air New Zealand’s profit rose considerably (Press, 27/4/00, “SIA seeking bigger slice of Air NZ”, p.14; 29/4/00, “PM rules out immediate Air NZ stake rise”, p.24).
The assumption from share brokers was that Singapore Airlines would run Air New Zealand, which BIL “had not added value to over the years”. In June Singapore Airlines got three directors onto the board. In July the managing director, Jim McCrea resigned with immediate effect, with the new shareholder seen as an influence (Press, 12/4/00, “SIA in Air NZ stake”, p.24; 10/8/00, “Air NZ sale completed”, p.14; 8/7/00, “SIA hand seen in Air NZ chief’s departure”, p.21).
Singapore Airlines also owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic. The OIC comments:
“Singapore Airlines aims to become a successful global group of airline and airline-related companies by making key strategic investments in quality businesses. SIA’s recent acquisition of 49% of Virgin Atlantic is in line with this objective. The acquisition of a stake in Air New Zealand Ltd, and indirectly Ansett, is another important step towards that goal as it provides SIA with a strategic stake in the New Zealand and Australian markets, both considered to be significant growth areas for SIA.”
Nothing there about how Air New Zealand benefits. With BIL’s assistance, it is likely that Air New Zealand will become part of Singapore Airline’s strategies rather than having an individual direction of its own, let alone one that suits the needs of New Zealanders. Indeed there is already speculation that Air New Zealand will try to change its constitution and move headquarters to Australia. After all, the Australian market was Singapore Airlines’ original target, and Air New Zealand’s turnover there is now bigger than that of Air New Zealand International (Press, 14/9/00, “Air NZ's flight deck changes”, p.15).
In all but name, we have lost our national airline.
CDL Land New Zealand Ltd of Singapore has approval to acquire eight hectares of land at 102 Palmers Rd, Weymouth, Auckland, from the Manukau City Council. The price and reason for purchasing the land have been suppressed. CDL Land New Zealand Ltd is part of the Singapore-owned CDL group.
CDL Land received approval to acquire two blocks of land for residential subdivision in Browns Bay, Auckland, last month. Its ownership was then recorded by the OIC as being 59.3% in New Zealand, 21.1% by the Hong Leong Group of Singapore, and 19.5% by other shareholders in Singapore. This month it is recorded as 58.2% in New Zealand, 22.1% by the Hong Leong Group of Singapore, and 19.6% by other shareholders in Singapore. We noted in last month’s decisions that the annual report of CDL Hotels New Zealand Ltd records CDL Land as being a 100% subsidiary of CDL Investments New Zealand Ltd, itself a 58.43% subsidiary of CDL Hotels New Zealand Ltd. CDL Hotels New Zealand Ltd owns the largest hotel chain in Aotearoa and its largest shareholder is Millennium and Copthorne Plc, a 52.4% subsidiary of CDL Hotels International Ltd, which is the Hong Leong Group’s principal hotel investment company.
· Grandy Lake Forest (NZ) Ltd, owned 25% each by E., A., W., and D. Gemmingem of Germany, has approval to acquire 1,532 hectares of the Springhill Station, Mohaka Coach Road, Hawkes Bay for $1,464,975. The land is the “marginal” hill country part of the Station, which is being subdivided. It will be converted to forestry. The Gemmingems “hold substantial forestry investments in north America and Germany and believe that Southern Hemisphere forestry investment gives balance to a global forestry portfolio”. Further investment may follow.
· Southland Plantation Forest Company of New Zealand Ltd, ultimately 51% owned by New Oji Paper Company Ltd, 30% by Itochu Corporation, and 19% by Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd, all of Japan, has approval to buy 114 hectares of land at Quarry Hills, Tokanui, Southland for $286,874 for forestry development. It is currently used for sheep grazing. As usual with its purchases, all forestry activities will be conducted under contract by South Wood Export Ltd of Japan. The last such purchase was in March 2000.
Waihi Gold Company Nominees Ltd has approval to acquire another block of land in Waihi, Coromandel as a buffer to the extension of its gold mine. It is 0.08 hectares at 8 Slevin Street, Waihi, for $127,000. It gained approval for the purchase of two blocks of land last month.
Waihi Gold is owned 67.06% by Normandy Mining Ltd, listed in Australia, and 32.94% by AUAG Resources Limited. The OIC shows the AUAG ownership as exactly half each Australian and New Zealand public. The last such acquisition was in March 2000.
“The company is proceeding with an extension to the Martha Mine that will have the effect of extending the life of the mine for about an additional seven years. This extension involves enabling access to be obtained to ore below the level of the currently licensed pit. To reach this ore it is necessary to bench back (or extend) the perimeter of the existing pit, and the additional land is required for this, and to provide a sufficient buffer between the extended mine and surrounding residential uses. Previous consents have been granted by the Commission for the acquisition of such land. The land the subject of this application is directly adjacent to the extended Martha Hill mine licence area, and will be required as a buffer for the extended project.”
· Prokont AB of Sweden, which is owned 50% by Rolf Marcusson of Sweden and 50% by Heather Marcusson of Aotearoa, has approval to acquire the 834 hectare Kupenga Station at Kupenga Station Bush, Gisborne for $1,935,000. They intend to make “significant improvements” to “improve its productive capacity”. They also “see opportunities in marketing Kupenga Station as a destination for small groups of tourists from Sweden as a farmstay facility.”
· Christopher McLaughlin of Ireland has approval to acquire 70 hectares at Camp Bridge, Coal Creek Road, Greymouth, West Coast for $230,805. “The property constitutes a lifestyle block, with a two-hectare residential area, 52 hectares of scrubland and 15 hectares used for a deer farming operation”. McLaughlin proposes to develop two buildings on the land into backpacker accommodation, expand the deer farming area to 45 hectares, and develop a horse or mule riding operation on the property. He proposes to spend about six months each year living on the property, when “he will assist with/oversee the proposed developments”.
· Evill Lawson Partnership which is owned 75% by T.J. and P. Evill of Singapore, and 25% by R. and B. Lawson of Aotearoa, has approval to acquire a further block of land in Marlborough for viticulture. It is nine hectares in Chaytors Road, Marshlands, for $485,329. The partnership “has invested significant capital in the Marlborough region, in both the hospitality and winemaking sectors.” It gained approval for the purchase of two blocks of land last month, one adjacent to this one. However, last month the partnership was 70% owned by the Singapore partners; that has now been increased to 75%. The partnership’s investments include an eight hectare vineyard and winery in Chaytors Lane, Blenheim, known as Lawsons Dry Hills Winery. These new pieces of land are “likely to increase the production capabilities” of the Lawsons Dry Hills label.
· The John W. McBride Family Trust of U.S.A. has approval to acquire the 1,152 hectare Glencree Station, State Highway 1, Kaikoura for $320,625. They promise that “the property is likely to become a large safari game park, with the aim of providing a choice of hunting experience for local and overseas hunters”. They will be setting up a company, New Zealand Trophy Hunting, to develop “the local tourism industry”. A neighbouring 1,659 hectare property will “also be marketed as a free range hunting experience, complimenting the safari style hunting planned”. It is not made clear who owns the neighbouring land.
· Rebecca Acres Ltd, owned by Tamara Current (33.4%), Case Swenson (33.3%), and Rebecca Menne (33.3%), all of the U.S.A. and members of the Swenson family, has approval to acquire a 137 hectare deer breeding farm at 566 German Road, Oxford, Canterbury from John Vincent Barber of Aotearoa, for $1,046,250. The new owners will lease the property back to Barber who will continue to manage the farm, which will be changed to operate a “deer finishing system” instead of breeding. In April 1992 we recorded that Rebecca Acres Ltd had “been given permission to acquire a 49.6600 hectare farm on the corner of South Eyre and Wolffs Roads, Oxford, Canterbury for $115,000. They already own an adjacent 112.6023 hectare farm and have been leasing this property since 1989.” In July 1992, Tamara Farms Ltd, owned by the same people, acquired a further 240.404 hectare farm at Summerhill, Rangiora for $469,687.