Monday, August 14, 2006

Hancock Seeks Clearance to Bid for Carter Holt Assets

Bloomberg, 14 August 2006

Hancock Timber Resource Group, the world's biggest forest investment fund, sought regulatory approval to bid for assets of Carter Holt Harvey Ltd., New Zealand's largest forestry company.

The Boston-based fund owns $5.2 billion of forests, including trees it bought in New Zealand from the former Fletcher Challenge estates in 2004. It asked New Zealand's Commerce Commission for approval to bid for shares in unspecified assets being sold by Auckland-based Carter Holt, according to a filing on the antitrust regulator's Web site.

``Hancock regularly investigates timberland investments that come on the market,'' said a New Zealand-based spokeswoman for Hancock who declined to be named. The company ``won't be commenting on any potential transactions.''

New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart, who completed his NZ$3.3 billion ($2.1 billion) purchase of Carter Holt in March, is seeking buyers for the company's 275,000 hectares (680,000 acres) of land and trees. Hancock is one of six potential bidders the company invited to assess the assets, the New Zealand Herald reported last week.

Carter Holt's 220,000 hectares of trees are the largest estate in the country and were valued at NZ$1.57 billion a year ago. The trees account for about 12 percent of New Zealand's plantation forests and were forecast to produce about 4.8 million cubic meters of wood a year through 2008, according to Carter Holt's report for the six months ended June 30, 2005. Output would peak at 8.4 million cubic meters around 2021-to-2024, it said.

Hancock owns or manages about 107,000 hectares in New Zealand, making it the fourth-largest forest manager.

Carter Holt sold 94,600 hectares of trees, a third of its estate, last year for NZ$441 million. Most of the estate was bought by a venture between Jacksonville, Florida-based Rayonier Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG's RREEF Infrastructure unit.