Genesis shares list at a premium

Genesis Energy's share price jumped more than 16 per cent when trading opened on the NZX today, bringing a symbolic end to the Government's asset-sales programme.

Genesis chairwoman Jenny Shipley rang the exchange's brass bell in Wellington along with NZX chief executive Tim Bennett and Finance Minister Bill English.

The shares then debuted at $1.80, well above their $1.55 issue price. They have traded as high as $1.83.

The jump was predicted by fund managers yesterday who pointed to the surprising level of demand for the company, which owns the Huntly Power Station and has New Zealand's largest customer base.

The partial sale of Genesis raised more than $733 million from the Crown, although the demand suggests the price could have ultimately been higher.

The Government's sales programme, that included partial floats of Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy, and the sale of a smaller stake in Air New Zealand, added more than $8 billion to the capitalisation of the NZX.

Bennett said it had been a "watershed" year for NZX.

English joked at the listing ceremony: "I wonder how you're going to get on when we stop propping you up."

In March the Government warned it might sell as little as 30 per cent of Genesis amid concerns there would be a lack of demand.

In the end the company attracted more shareholders than Meridian Energy, a company that was far larger and was initially dubbed the "jewel in the crown" with vast generation assets in the South Island.

English praised Genesis for "taking an entity that very few people knew much about" and turning it into an investment product in major demand.

He also reflected on the sales process and praised Prime Minister John Key for taking the risk "which enables such a successful and constructive process to go ahead".

"It's almost hard to believe that we've got to this day," English said.

"I think anyone would agree that the policy as announced [at the] beginning of 2011 looked a bit politically risky."

English said the Government now had $4.7 billion "in the bank" from the mixed ownership model sales process.

In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of Meridian Energy were yet to be collected because of the structure of the sales.

He denied the government had under-priced Genesis, saying today's share-price rise reflected a surge in interest which had surprised many.

"On average, we've got good value for these companies" while also passing some of the risks of running the companies to the market, he said.

The process might have brought new investors back to the market "who haven't been in the share market, actually, since the 1980s, and they're starting to come back".

Mark Lister, head of private client research at Craigs Investment Partners, said the pricing for Genesis had been influenced by the poor showing in the sale of Mighty River Power.

"The Government was still cautious of Mighty River Power where on pricing, they simply got it wrong," he said.

"They didn't want to make that mistake again."

Lister said that overall the process had turned out to be a success for investors. Meridian and Air New Zealand had both climbed since the sales, as had Genesis today.

"If you look across the whole sell-down process, for people who have participated through each of the sales, they'll come away with [gains from] three out of four, which is pretty good," he said.

"All in all, for investors, it's been a much better outcome than people would have thought, six months ago."

However it was clear there was more demand from new investors in Mighty River shares than the later asset sales, which Lister said might have put them off later sales.

"The unfortunate thing about the whole process is that the one that didn't work out was the first one, because it's the first one that's going to get all the attention, all the hype and so on," he said.

"That was the one that turned out to be a poor investment, so that means a lot of the people who were new to the market, new to shares, new to investing in this way, probably took part in that one and were put off taking part in the others.

"Number two, three and four went well, but Mr and Mrs Smith who decided to have a go didn't take part in number two, three and four."