Chinese investor eyes Norway's Arctic islands

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — A Chinese real estate tycoon said he's making an offer for a vast swathe of land on Norway's Arctic archipelago to build a holiday village for wealthy travelers.

Huang Nubo told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK on Thursday that he wants to buy 216 square kilometers (83 square miles) on the island of Svalbard, 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the mainland for "more than 24 million kroner ($4 million)."

He didn't give details about his plans and appeared unsure of the climate and properties of the island, situated midway between continental Norway and the North Pole.

"I didn't know there was so much ice there," NRK quoted him as saying.

Svalbard, with a population of about 2,400 people and 3,000 polar bears, attracts well-off and hardy tourists with stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers, but for most of the year it's covered by ice and snow.

China has shown keen interest in the Arctic as nations across the world rush to stake claims to the region's resources. It was granted observer status to the Arctic Council last year with five other countries that are located far from the region — India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Huang's purchase in Svalbard would give him a foothold along a potential Arctic shipping route that could cut weeks off the current trade route from the Far East to European and North American markets.

In 2010, the government of Iceland rejected similar plans by Huang to buy land on that island because of restrictions on the purchase of land by foreigners.

The land for sale on Svalbard is owned by a wealthy Norwegian family and has been on the market for several weeks.