January 11, 2018 / 9:01 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-NZ regulator probing PGG Wrightson's top shareholder

(Adds details about the probe, background)

Jan 12 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s overseas investment regulator is investigating Agria Corporation, the largest shareholder in New Zealand agriculture firm PGG Wrightson Ltd , PGG said on Thursday, confirming media reports.

PGG Wrightson said the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) was investigating Hong-Kong based Agria on “good character” grounds.

The move comes after Agria, which owns more than 50 percent of PGG Wrightson, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) last year.

That followed an investigation by the NYSE which said there were indications Agria had engaged in trading intended to artificially inflate its stock price.

The OIO can block investments if it finds that foreign owners are not of “good character.” It recently turned down Chinese conglomerate HNA Group’s bid to purchase Australia and New Zealand Banking’s asset finance firm UDC Finance because it was uncertain of HNA’s ownership structure and could not assess the owners’ character.

The regulator is also using the character test as grounds to probe American television personality Matt Lauer’s ownership of a New Zealand farm. (Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Mark Potter)

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