NSW

Alistair Walsh | 2 May 2013

Chinese winery investors return to Hunter Valley after 18-month hiatus

Chinese winery investors return to Hunter Valley after 18-month hiatus

Chinese buyers have returned to the Hunter Valley vineyard market after more than 18 months.

Fu Yip International Group, run by Chengye Xiao and Jiemei Xiao, last spent $1.7 million last month on Honeytree Estate, at Pokolbin.

It was marketed by Cain Beckett from Jurd’s Real Estate. Beckett has been the negotiating agent on many winery sales to Chinese investors since 2011.

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The 12.6 hectare property was sold by Robyn and Henk Strengers, from the Netherlands, who bought the property for $848,000 from Toronto businessman Kevin Leary in 1997.

Leary bought the property from a group of five Sydney families who used it as a weekend getaway.

The property has a two-bedroom and two-bathroom homestead, a cellar door, a separate guest cottage and views to the Brokenback Range.

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It was first planted in 1970 by the French born Sydney artist Maurice Schlesinger who planted one acre of Clairette. It now produces Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Clairette.

Henk, a former accountant, says the vineyard is one of the only Clairette producers in the region. The region is better known for its Shiraz and Semillion.

The vineyard reportedly takes its name from a honey tree which once grew on the property and was a landmark in the area.

The Strengers bought the property for a lifestyle change but at the time said the decision was also an investment one.

"We wanted to invest in something that was going to show a return ... that was quite important," Robyn told Fairfax in 1997.

Beckett says every winery sale over $1.5 million in the Hunter region over the last few years has been to Chinese buyers.

Most inquiries in the vineyard market come from buyers looking to buy for immigration purposes with strong looming potential from significant investor visa applicants.

Beckett says a lot tend to go to Chinese buyers with wine interests back in China, be they distributers, hotel owners or wine producers.

After a surge of Chinese buyers in 2011, the number of sales dropped off in 2012 with buyers having difficulty getting funds out of China. But Beckett says this problem seems to have passed with sales starting back up again.

Beckett says there are another five sales currently in negotiation with multiple bidders on many of them.

 

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Beckett says Chinese buyers of vineyards tend to run them as successful Australian businesses.

“The majority of purchasers try and operate a successful Australian business that has an export arm. The export arm is obviously the strongest but they see a strong need to operate a successful business here that operate as a show piece,” Beckett says.

“They have their investors come here and their friends and business partners come out and see the property. But there are others that have completely closed sales channels are.”

Fu Yip International Group will run the estate in conjuction with Australian wine company Molly’s Cradle.

In August 2011 the Capercaillie vineyard sold to buyers from China. It had been listed at $1.89 million by Alan Jurd and Cain Beckett from Jurd’s Real Estate.

And in September 2011 the Golden Grape Estate winery sold for $2.8 million to businessman Genghua Lin.

And in July 2011 a Chinese investor spent about $2.7 million on Windsor’s Edge.

And in August 2011 Brycefield estate sold for $2.8 million.

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