28 Feb 2013

Full steam ahead for partial float of Mighty River

4:52 pm on 28 February 2013

Prime Minister John Key says the partial float of Mighty River Power will now go ahead, with a timeline for the sales to be announced on Monday.

Plans for the sales were on hold while the Supreme Court considered an bid by the Maori Council to stop the sale. The court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal.

Mr Key said the decision means the sale of the shares will now move quickly.

Opposition parties are urging the Government to hold the sales until after a public referendum.

The Greens, Labour, the Council of Trade Unions and Grey Power have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on assets sales. They will present the signatures to Parliament on 12 March.

Finance Minister Bill English told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programmeon Thursday the only referendum the Government respects is the election.

He said the Government laid out its plans in the last election and was given the mandate for the assets sale when it was voted back in.

Mr English said the expected proceeds from the sale will be reflected in the Budget and would go into the Government's Future Investment Fund, to be used in the rebuilding of Christchurch and other major capital projects.

The Labour Party said the Government is ignoring public opinion in going ahead with the sales. State Owned Enterprises Clayton Cosgrove spokesperson told Morning Report the timing for the asset sales is wrong.

Investment banker Rob Cameron said financial markets are pleased the Government will go ahead with its partial asset sale programme.

Mr Cameron, who chaired the capital markets development taskforce, said the companies proposed for sale are sound investments and their well-known brands will make them popular with investors.

Revenue estimates

The Government estimates its programme to sell minority stakes in three power companies, a coal miner, and Air New Zealand is worth between $5 billion to $7 billion.

The court decision clears the way for the Government to list Mighty River Power before the middle of the year, and perhaps a second one, which is thought to be be Meridian Energy, by the end of the year.

The two sales could be worth more than $3 billion.