9 May 2013

Greens say policy vindicated by low share take-up

10:10 pm on 9 May 2013

The Green Party says the low take-up of shares in the Mighty River Power float shows the Opposition's policy on power would lower prices.

The Government is accusing the Greens and Labour Party of sabotaging the float, after less than a third of New Zealanders who pre-registered for shares followed through on their intention.

The Government is selling a 49% stake in the state-owned enterprise and will raise $1.7 billion. The price is $2.50 per share and the company will list on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges on Friday.

Three days after the offer was announced in April, Labour and the Greens unveiled plans to bring the electricity industry under state control.

They said if elected in 2014 as government, they would establish a state-owned company, NZ Power, to buy electricity so it is cheaper for consumers.

The Government said that had a significant effect in scaring off Mighty River investors. About 440,000 New Zealanders pre-registered their interest, but about 114,000 actually bought shares.

Senior Cabinet ministers Bill English, Tony Ryall and Steven Joyce are blaming the Opposition parties' policy for the low take-up.

In Parliament on Thursday, Greens co-leader Russell Norman asked Mr Ryall, the State Owned Energy Minister, if the lower-than-expected take-up of shares shows the market accepts that NZ Power would lower power prices.

However Mr Ryall rejected that, saying it was economic sabotage.

Outside the House, Dr Norman said very few people were conned by the offer.

More to come, says English

Finance Minister Bill English said investor interest in Mighty River Power shows there is enough demand to partially sell Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy.

Mr English told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the people who paid for shares have put $1.7 billion in the Government's coffers and that will be used to invest in other public assets. Future selloffs would bring in several more billion dollars.

He said the Treasury had forecast that about 225,000 investors would buy shares - the number of people who bought Contact Energy shares when that company was floated in the late 1990s.

But the Treasury's expectations have not been met. Mr English said more sophisticated investors had the skills and interest to calculate what the risks were, but the Opposition parties' electricity policy was enough to deter mum and dad investors.

Numbers hailed by NZX

The New Zealand stock exchange says the Mighty River Power listing brought about 78,000 new investors into the market.

NZX chief executive Tim Bennett is unfazed by the lower numbers, telling Morning Report that from the point of view of capital markets, having thousands of new investors is great and the challenge now is to make sure they diversify their holdings into other forms of investment.

Mr Bennett said investors are well aware of what they're getting into and Might River Power is like all investments and has its risks.