Investor confident of Iceland land sale

Updated: 2011-11-11 06:58

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Businessman Huang Nubo believes he has an 80-percent chance of winning approval to buy an area of northeast Iceland to build a luxury resort, he told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

Investor confident of Iceland land sale

Huang Nubo, chairman of Beijing-based Zhongkun Investment Group, at his office in Beijing. [Photo/ China Daily]

Huang, 55, is expecting the result to be announced by the end of this week, he said.

The chairman of Beijing-based Zhongkun Investment Group Co Ltd said his confidence stems from the support and positive feedback he has received from the people of Iceland. A recent opinion poll in The Reykjavik Grapevine saw 60 percent of the respondents in favor of the sale, Huang said.

He intends to purchase 300 square kilometers of land in Grimsstadir a Fjollum, northeastern Iceland, as part of a $200 million investment for a top-class resort.

Huang said that the project is a business investment driven by his connection to the country and the natural beauty he saw there.

"My story with the country and its people is widely known and is an example of friendship between the two countries," he said.

His longtime friend, Icelandic translator Hjorleifur Sveinbjornsson, confirmed in an e-mail to China Daily that Huang is widely known in Iceland. "His story has been widely publicized in the Icelandic press. A large majority of Icelanders have heard of him."

Sveinbjornsson said he has known Huang since 1977 when he was a student at the Chinese language and literature department in Peking University, where Huang was also studying.

They were roommates and soon became good friends, Sveinbjornsson said. His mother made a sweater for Huang, who was orphaned at 13.

Sveinbjornsson has become Huang's source of understanding about Iceland and of the value of literary exchanges. Last year Huang donated 1 million yuan ($157,600) in sponsorship for an annual Sino-Icelandic poetry festival. The second festival just finished in Beijing and Huangshan, Anhui province, in late October.

"Knowing him, I am very comfortable about him buying land and investing in Iceland," Sveinbjornsson said.

"Iceland has gone through a deep economic crisis since the banking problems in 2008. We need foreign investment to get things going," he added.

Huang was also encouraged to invest by the Icelandic government, he said.

"I went for a poetry festival in 2010 and I was conquered by the powerful natural beauty," Huang said. "I saw a country in financial trouble and their eagerness for investment.

"I sent a team to research. On my second visit, I made the decision."

A successful businessman, listed in Forbes for his real estate investments, Huang considers himself primarily a poet. He has a number of poetry collections published, including the latest one, on mountain climbing, released on Sunday.

That collection has 300 poems written on the road to the highest peaks in each continent, and the Arctic, during Huang's adventures in recent years. Some were actually written on the peak of Qomolangma.

"Being a poet helps my business decisions," Huang said. "I chose the location of the land in Iceland by following a poet's instinct for beauty.

"To be frank, the projects I made the biggest profits from all derived from my taste for culture," he added. Soft power and an appreciation for culture are the best way to make profits, he said.

Iceland's Ambassador to China, Kristin A. Arnadottir, told China Daily on Thursday, that "I find Huang a poetic investor, and perhaps one of a kind. He sees opportunities where others do not, and is a passionate admirer and challenger of nature".

Arnadottir also said Huang's application, which is for an exemption from the law that prohibits foreigners outside the European Economic Area owning land, is now being processed by the authorities in Iceland.

"Since this is, in some aspects, a controversial issue the process is time-consuming so we will have to wait until a final resolution is reached," she said.

Wei Xiaoan, an expert in tourist economics with the China Tourism Academy, sees the project through the lens of China's tourism-related investments that started in the 1990s.

"It's common business behavior, driven by the market," Wei told China Daily, "I don't understand why it has become so sensitive in some of the Western media."

Xu Hong, the company's vice-president, said that once approval is granted they would send a team of 20 professionals from related areas to formulate a detailed plan for the project.

The resort will focus on nature and the arts, Xu said.