Gunns plantation sale sealed

ANOTHER chapter has closed for former timber company Gunns, with a Victorian judge approving the sale of 50,000 hectares of hardwood plantation to Sydney company New Forests.

In May, Gunns’ receiver KordaMentha announced a deal to sell the failed company’s hardwood plantation estate to Sydney-based forestry investment company New Forests for about $330 million.

The company was not interested in the pulp mill site and permits, but KordaMentha has not given up hope of selling the asset to a separate buyer.

KordaMentha spokesman Michael Smith yesterday said the court ruling gave certainty to the ownership of the trees.

The plantations were part of managed investment schemes, which involved about 9000 investors in more than 10 different schemes, who will now share more than $40 million.

‘‘Any buyer of the pulp mill licence knows exactly who they need to negotiate with to get access to that stock,’’ Mr Smith said.

‘‘They know they can get it from one place, and until these orders they were owned by 9000 different people,’’ he said.

Mr Smith said negotiations with interested parties would start again next month.

‘‘The difference this time is there’s more certainty with the trees, everybody now knows, and by court ratification, that those 50,000 hectares of trees in question are now clearly owned by New Forests,’’ he said.

The land at the proposed pulp mill site and the pulp mill licences are now all that is left of Gunns’ assets.

New Forests and KordaMentha will also sign off on the remainder of the deal to buy freehold land and other assets, such as woodchip facilities.

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