OPINION: The Government's zealotry for its partial assets sales programme simply hasn't converted New Zealanders to step forward for their full-immersion sharemarket baptisms.
Just 16,000 of the 63,000 investors in Meridian were first-timers - a brace of figures disappointing in themselves and scarcely indicative of a developing nationwide willingness to repent from the fleshy temptations of the housing market and become a virtuous shareholding democracy.
If anything the asset sales programme seems to be losing rather than gaining momentum.
Even though the tithe was set at $1.50 a share, Meridian attracted fully 50,000 fewer investors than bought into Mighty River Power, which was hardly a shimmering success in itself.
From those two sales the Government has made $3.58 billion - money it will not now have to borrow to fund its good works.
Not that the overseas interest rates that it would have paid were anything like as high as the return to Government coffers that the hocked-off component of those national assets have been returning.
But faithless murmurings like that are something this righteously impelled Government casts from itself with blows and curses.
Finance Minister Bill English blames Labour and the Greens for an element of "sabotage" of the Meridian float, though it would have been more apt if he'd called it heresy.
Should that devilish duo become the Government, they plan to establish a single buyer for all electricity generation, a degree of control that perhaps leaves that careworn couple, the mum-and-dad household bill-payers, in conflict with their intrepidly entrepreneurial other-selves, the mum-and-dad investors.
Mind you, whatever decision they make, these put-upon parents haven't really been in a position to opt out of the impact of this demented asset sales programme.
They are already stumping up, as taxpayers or power users, for a raft of consequential costs.
And now it has emerged that a London-based New York fund manager bought just under 4 per cent of Meridian. This does serve to underscore the sour expectation of a flow of profits overseas, though as things stand the Government can still point to the company listing with 86.5 per cent New Zealand ownership, and its oft-repeated bottom line that the Government is committed to holding at least 51 per cent of the total ownership.
It's now an issue whether the remaining Genesis and Air New Zealand sales will see the total raised reach even the bottom end of the $5 billion to $7 billion the Government had been talking about during the previous election.
But who knows. Maybe it's trusting in a loaves-and-fishes miracle?
Certainly, it's making plenty of faith-based decisions.
It's looking more and more like this is less a hard-headed asset sales programme than a series of sacrificial offerings.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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