17 Sep 2015

Solid Energy creditors accept sell-off plan

7:32 pm on 17 September 2015

Creditors of Solid Energy have approved a progressive sell-down of the company's assets over the next two-and-a-half years.

After that, Solid Energy will cease to exist, ending 70 years of state-run coal mining in New Zealand.

Huge trucks move high-grade coal from a stockpile at the Stockton Mine near Westport.

Trucks move high-grade coal from a stockpile at the Stockton Mine near Westport. Photo: 123RF

Eighty-five per cent of all creditors voted in favour of the plan.

The staged sell off was widely viewed as the best available method of handling an unpayable debt of $400 million.

Administrator Brendon Gibson said the arrangement would also allow for day-to-day trade creditors and employees to be paid in full.

Control of Solid Energy would return to the board.

Mr Gibson said the mines would continue operating until they were sold, and there had been expressions of interests by poential buyers.

Solid Energy Acting Chairman Andy Coupe said he was pleased the plan has been adopted.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay welcomed the decison and said it provided some certainty.

Whether the agreement stuck was up to Solid Energy and its lawyers.

However, the situation was still challenging, with coal prices down again this week, he said.

Best option

The sell off was originally proposed by Solid Energy's board of directors as they handed control of the company to administrators from the insolvency specialists KordaMentha.

KordaMentha then hired independent experts to analyse the proposal, and last week those specialists said it was the best option.

They said under a progressive sell down, creditors should be able to get 35-40 cents in the dollar. Workers and trade creditors would get 100 cents in the dollar.

The big losers would be the banks, the Government and some bond holders.

But under immediate liquidation, the benefit would be only 15-20 cents in the dollar, which would hurt the banks even more.

The difference stems from lower severance costs if the mines are kept on as going concerns for the purposes of sale, rather than being closed immediately under the liquidation option.

To win approval the staged sell-down proposal had to win over 50 percent of all 1500 creditors of Solid Energy and represent at least 75 percent of the value of the debt.