Electric cars part of Mighty River's future

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 02/05/2014
Fraser Whineray
SEAN WILLIS/Fairfax NZ

INTERNAL APPOINTMENT: Fraser Whineray will step up to the top at Mighty River Power in September.

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Mighty River Power's new chief executive, Fraser Whineray, sees powering electric cars as part of the company's future, but he is less enthusiastic about Labour's New Zealand Power policy.

The power company announced Whineray would succeed Doug Heffernan from September 1.

Whineray said the outlook for Mighty River had fewer challenges and more opportunities, one of which was supplying sustainable energy for plug-in electric vehicles.

The cost to power an electric vehicle was the equivalent of 50c per litre of unleaded 91 petrol, compared with today's rate of around $2.20 a litre, he said.

"This is a way off, but remember that today's mobile phones have come a long way from the big shoulder packs they once were."

Mighty River Power generated close to 80 per cent of power from renewable resources in the last quarter, he said.

Whineray was less enthusiastic about the single buyer for electricity policy formed by Labour, the Green Party and NZ First.

While some New Zealanders struggled to pay their power bill, there were many others who did not, so policies to help society needed to be targeted.

Whineray will earn a base salary of $850,000 with the potential to earn up to $1.34 million if short and long-term financial goals are reached.

The 42-year-old will become chief executive-designate from the new financial year 2015, starting July 1, reporting to Heffernan.

Mighty River chairwoman Joan Withers said Whineray was the best candidate to take the company forward after it was listed on the NZX last year as part of the Government's partial privatisation programme of state-owned power companies.

Forsyth Barr senior equity analyst Andrew Harvey-Green said the market would react positively to the appointment of an internal candidate, which had not happened enough at chief executive level recently.

Devon Fund Management senior energy analyst Phillip Anderson said Whineray's CV was extensive and the Mighty River board was "definitely not taking a punt on him".

"His challenge will be to do a bit of belt-tightening at Mighty River as demand for energy was still contracting and there was an oversupply," Anderson said.

Whineray joined the Mighty River Power executive team in 2008 from Carter Holt Harvey.

He had held roles at Fonterra and Credit Suisse First Boston.

He is the nephew of former All Black and National Bank chairman Wilson Whineray.

Mighty River Power announced last year that Heffernan would leave the company at the end of August, after 16 years at the helm. The company's share prices closed up marginally yesterday at $2.335.

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