Chinese Property Tycoon Eyes Norway as Iceland Project on Hold

Chinese property tycoon Huang Nubo, whose planned $200 million resort and mountain park in Iceland has been blocked because of foreign investment laws, is turning his attention to Norway.

Huang, who is chairman of Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group Co., said the company is in discussions to buy a hotel in Oslo and is looking for investments in other Norwegian cities as its planned project in Iceland hasn’t made any progress. The company will invest as much as $100 million in resorts and other tourism-related property in Norway, he said.

“The tourism industry in Norway is probably more mature” than in Iceland, Huang said in a phone interview from Beijing yesterday. “Our commitment in Nordic countries is not changed. We plan to enter one or two countries first and then expand to the rest of Northern Europe, while we don’t mind waiting for Iceland.”

Huang first proposed the project in Iceland in 2011 as a launchpad for investments elsewhere in the Nordic region. The new Icelandic government, which was elected in April 2013, is reviewing investment laws that had blocked his previous bids. Huang’s company, one of the first Chinese developers investing abroad, said in 2011 it planned to develop the resort and mountain park on 300 square kilometers (116 square miles) of land.

“Northern European countries are actually still very conservative,” Huang said. “They think Chinese investors are those nouveau riche who buy out everything everywhere. If it takes time for the investment, then we’ll just do it slowly.”

Mountain Villages

Huang’s connection with Iceland started 30 years ago when he was studying at Peking University, he said in 2011. His roommate and good friend back then was from the volcanic island and later married a politician. Huang donated $1 million in 2010 to set up an Icelandic-Chinese poet-exchange program.

Beijing Zhongkun, who has properties in California and Tennessee, is also known for helping restore the 200-year-old villages of Xidi and Hongcun around Huangshan mountain in China’s eastern Anhui province, which are now included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The closely held company built and operates resorts near the villages, according to Beijing Zhongkun’s website.

Huang donated $1.6 million to a museum in Norway in exchange for the return of seven marble columns from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing to China. It took six months to reach an agreement with the Norwegian museum, which needed funding for refurbishment, he said.

The columns, currently in the KODE Art Museums of Bergen, were bequeathed by a former Norwegian cavalry officer, Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe, as part of a collection of 2,500 Chinese artifacts in the early 1900s, The New York Times reported on Feb. 9.

They will be returned in September and placed at a museum at Peking University from where Huang graduated, he said. Huang, who is a member of China’s writers’ association, has published several books of poetry.

“I felt very sentimental when I saw those relics in the museum and I think they should be returned to China,” Huang said.

— With assistance by Bonnie Cao

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