Mighty River an 'Epic fail' - Greens

Last updated 08:26 09/05/2013

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113,000 sign up for Mighty River shares

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More than 100,000 New Zealanders have snapped up shares in Mighty River Power, but Green party co-leader Russel Norman insists the offer was an "epic fail".

The government will reap about $1.7 billion from the sale, the first in its plans to partially privatise state-owned energy companies and Air New Zealand.

The final share price was set at $2.50 last night, and 113, 000 chose to invest, out of 440,000 who registered an interest.

Finance Minister Bill English this morning said the government honoured a promise to give New Zealanders 85-90 per cent of the shares. Just over 13 per cent of shares went to overseas buyers and about 68 per cent appear to be first-time buyers.

"We get the sense here that given all the discussion about Mighty River Power the people who have come in to buy shares are fairly likely to stick around for a while because they see it as long term investment," English told Firstline this morning.

The level of interest showed there was enough demand to forge ahead with the partial sell-off of Meridian Energy and Genesis, he said.

However, the controversial assets sales plan has been dogged since it was first signalled by Prime Minister John Key early in 2011.

There were fears that a legal challenge over water rights by the Maori Council would derail plans, then early in the share offer, Labour and the Green parties launched a new policy to create NZ Power, a single, centralised power buyer if they become the Government, which is thought to have spooked many investors.

English said last night there were indications the Opposition policy had cut the money the government would have made from the sale of Mighty River Power by about $205 million. Before the NZ Power plan was announced, market estimates were that shares would sell for up to $2.80 each.

Norman said the sale was "a con ... with less than 3 per cent of Kiwis buying in and most of the shares going to corporates".

He added: "The charade is over: 'Mum and Dad' New Zealanders haven't bought the shares; the big finance institutions and foreign corporates have."

Norman also claimed the 440,000 pre-registered investors "turned out to be a figment of John Key's imagination".

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- BusinessDay.co.nz


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