China tycoon to rent land in Iceland for resort

Associated Press Modified: May 7, 2012 at 8:45 am •  Published: May 7, 2012
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SHANGHAI (AP) — A Chinese real estate tycoon is hoping to rent land in Iceland to build a vast nature retreat after an earlier attempt to buy the property was rejected over concerns about such a large tract going into foreign ownership.

The Zhongkun Group has initial approval from Iceland to rent the 120 square mile (30,640 hectare) property, with a contract likely to be signed in mid-June, Yao Chen, a company spokeswoman, said Monday.

"We can't comment on details as it is not officially set, but we think that it will be very likely for us to settle it this way," Yao said.

"We would like to develop it for tourism, having hotels, parks and racetracks there," she said, adding that the company hoped to have a 99-year lease.

The project proposed by Zhongkun's founder, Huang Nubo, is viewed by some as a lifeline for Iceland's struggling economy as it battles back from the collapse of its banking industry in 2008.

The Icelandic government rejected Huang's bid to buy the land outright due to restrictions on the purchase of land by foreigners.

Huang reportedly complained that the rejection reflected "anti-Chinese" attitudes, saying at the time that he would instead plan projects in other Nordic countries, such as Sweden and Finland, and in the United States.

The latest proposal calls for Zhongkun to rent both a ranch and a nearby barren mountain, the same 120 square miles (30,639 hectares) of land on the north shore of Iceland that Huang had earlier sought to buy for about 1 billion Icelandic kronur ($8.8 million), Yao said.

"Actually we would like to just get the ranch, but the government said it is impossible to get it without the mountain," she said.

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Researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.