29 Oct 2013

Meridian Energy stock starts trading

8:14 pm on 29 October 2013

State-owned power company Meridian Energy finished its first day of trading on the New Zealand Stock Exchange at $1.08 cents.

The shares were issued at $1.50 each, but investors have paid $1 for the first instalment and that part was being traded from Tuesday. The second instalment is due to be paid in May 2015.

Meridian Energy chief executive Mark Binns.

Meridian Energy chief executive Mark Binns. Photo: RNZ

Shares of New Zealand's largest power company started trading at 1pm and were to debut on the Australian Securities Exchange at 2.30pm (NZT).

The company was floated as part of the Government's partial privatisation programme of state-owned energy companies and joins Mighty River Power which was floated in May this year.

Shares in Meridian were priced at $1.50 each last Wednesday after the Government spent three days in talks with local and international institutional investors.

The price was set at the low end of the prospectus range of $1.50 to $1.80, and lower than the $1.60 retail cap set out in the investment documents.

Meridian chief executive Mark Binns said the company's future would have lots of challenges, but the management is up to taking them on.

"To badly abuse Winston Churchill's words: This is not the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning as Meridian moves to its next stage of development as a publicly listed company."

Mr Binns said Meridian's governance will improve now that it has listed.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said the float is a sign of real confidence in the New Zealand economy.

"It's a great milestone for Meridian and it marks the beginning of a new era for the company where not only are they watched by the Government, but by the thousands of New Zealand retail and professional investors who have bought shares in Meridian Energy."

Finance Minister Bill English said the company's long-term performance was more important than short-term movements.

"Whether the price goes up or down, I think everyone's learnt that in a market that can go up or down what's going to be important for the investors is the ability of the company to deliver the dividend stream that it's promised in the prospectus."

Mr English said he would be surprised if the stock dramatically rose or fell in price.

Analysts had expected the price to rise in early trading due to the attractive dividend, but said beyond that shares could be volatile and affected by political polls.

The partial sale of Meridian Energy is expected to earn the Government $1.9 billion, compared with the $1.7 billion raised from selling 49% of the much smaller Mighty River Power.

Mighty River listed at $2.50 in May and on Tuesday was trading at $2.18.

Market dominated by Meridian - Bascand

The managing director at Harbour Asset Management, Andrew Bascand, says practically all the market's attention today was on just one stock - Meridian Energy.

"That stock's already traded almost 220 million shares and the focus has been on the debut, which appears to have exceeded expectations."

Mr Bascand says it was a very high volume day, and it was notable that such a high volume stock, with its good spread of investors, had debuted up more than 8%, "especially when it is, in effect, an instalment receipt".

The New Zealand sharemarket was slightly weaker on Tuesday, the benchmark Top 50 Index shedding 11 points to 4853.