Aussies may get slice of Mighty River

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 13:27 01/03/2013
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Aussies could get a slice of the Kiwi pie after a report Mighty River Power will be dual listed on the Australian stock exchange.

The state-owned energy company is set to be the first off the block in the Government's asset-sales programme after it got the green light from the Supreme Court this week.

Despite the dire state of Solid Energy's finances, the Government is pushing ahead with the 49 per cent selldown of four energy companies and Air New Zealand.

Mighty River Power was expected to be listed on the New Zealand stock exchange in the first half of the year now Maori water-ownership claims have been moved to the side.

A report from across the Tasman says Mighty River Power will also be listed on the Australian stock exchange.

The companies in charge of Mighty River Power's float - expected to raise about $1.9 billion - reconvened meetings soon after the Supreme Court decision and were working on a dual-listing, the Australian Financial Review said.

It said one-on-one meetings were held with Mighty River chief executive Doug Heffernan and chief financial officers William Meek in Sydney and Melbourne in January.

Labour state-owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the news confirmed the worst-kept secret - that Australian investors would be buying up chunks of the New Zealand company.

"National's asset sales are economic vandalism," Cosgrove said. "These assets will ultimately end owned by foreign investors, and rather than the dividends and profits staying in the hands of New Zealanders they will head offshore."

The Government had promised New Zealanders would be at the front of the queue for buying shares in the state-owned companies and has said the first float is likely to be oversubscribed.

"So if Kiwis get first dibs and demand is going to exceed supply, why list the company in Australia too?" Cosgrove said.

"[Finance Minister] Bill English needs to tell to New Zealanders whether he is planning to flog off their assets on the Australian sharemarket, and if he is, why he thinks it is a good idea."

Mighty River Power declined to comment.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English said Mighty River Power's primary listing would be on the New Zealand stock exchange but decisions had not been made past that.

"Decisions beyond that will be announced after they have been confirmed by ministers."

The spokesperson maintained that New Zealanders would be "firmly at the front of the queue" for shares. 

Meanwhile, Cosgrove has called for former Solid Energy boss Don Elder to appear before a select committee.

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The Government recently revealed the state coalminer was in heavy debt due to bad investments and falling coal prices.

Elder left the company last month.

But Cosgrove said he should appear before the commerce select committee as part of Solid Energy's financial review next week.

"Dr Elder's evidence is essential to understanding what happened to that failing company, who did what and who was responsible."

- Stuff

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