$180m Woolnorth dairy deal close

TASMANIA'S historic Van Diemen's Land Company is close to concluding negotiations for a  $180 million investment in its giant dairying operations at Woolnorth in the far North-West.

Company chief executive Mike Guerin said yesterday that the company was in final negotiations on structure and price with three parties representing both national and international interests.

The government-owned China Investment Corporation has been keen to invest in Tasmania's North-West dairy ventures.

The corporation has already made inquiries with Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board as part of its bid to buy into the Van Diemen's Land Company's dairying operations.

It has also reportedly held talks with Premier Lara Giddings about acquiring an interest in the business.

Company representatives have also inquired about the possible sale of the privately-owned Little Lion dairy operation at Smithton.

Mr Guerin would not discuss any of the interested parties yesterday at what he described was a final, sensitive phase of negotiations.

He did not deny the Chinese interest and said that it had taken 12 months to reach this stage.

``From our side, we would be happy to do business with all three of them,'' Mr Guerin said.

``A number of them have proposed quite different structures - the negotiations now are about how we structure it.''

The New Zealand-controlled Van Diemen's Land Company has also applied for the necessary federal and state approvals for its planned expansion, which would see the Woolnorth dairying operation doubling its production and workforce.

``This whole project has been three years in the making - it's a substantial piece of work,'' Mr Guerin said.

``This is as good a dairying country as you will find in Australia and arguably, the world - it has the climate, pasture growth and grass fed, open-air system.''

Mr Guerin expects investment negotiations to be finalised and permits approved to enable the proposed expansion to start within 12 months.


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