The Chinese property tycoon who wanted to buy a chunk of Iceland may settle for Norway

What could have been a great golf course.
What could have been a great golf course.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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The Chinese property tycoon who became a household name in China and Iceland for his foiled attempts to buy a 115 square-mile (298km2) Icelandic farm isn’t giving up on his Nordic dreams. Huang Nubo—billionaire, mountain trekker and poet—is now turning his acquisitive gaze towards Norway.

Huang is in discussions to buy a hotel in Oslo and invest up to $100 million in tourism-related assets, he told Bloomberg in an interview. “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,” he said.

Last year, Huang made a $8.8 million bid to buy a chunk of land in Iceland, where he hoped to build an “eco golf course” and other wilderness tourist attractions for rich Chinese tourists looking for solitude and fresh air. The offer was refused because of restrictions on foreign ownership, but those rules are being reviewed by Iceland’s newly elected government.

His efforts have raised eyebrows—for one, golf would be difficult on the snowy swathe of land he hoped buy—and no small amount of conspiracy theories. Some have suspected Huang, who was an employee in the Chinese government’s propaganda department for over a decade, is part of Beijing’s larger strategic plans to tap natural resources in the Arctic.

But for Huang, the investment may just be personal. A mountaineer, he is one of few people in the world that have scaled the highest peaks on all seven continents; he climbed the North Pole last year. He seems to have a personal fascination with the country, which began during his university years in Beijing when he lived with a student from Iceland. In 2010, Huang invested $1 million to help start a poet-exchange program between Iceland and China.

Huang’s first name isn’t his given name, but one he chose. Nubo, translates as “angry wave” a name he adopted at the age of 16 after seeing both of his parents die during the Cultural Revolution. “I wasn’t calm, I was angry,” he told the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend, explaining his decision. By escaping to the snowy reaches of Iceland, or for now at least Norway, Huang may be just looking for some peace of his own.