Tainui eyes digital future with Dotcom

STEVE KILGALLON AND KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2013

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The Tainui tribe is considering a major investment in Kim Dotcom's new Mega website venture, and Dotcom's chief lieutenant says it could be the start of an era of Maori investment in the digital world.

A source said senior Tainui negotiator Tukoroirangi Morgan met Mega employees for lunch at an Auckland restaurant last month to discuss a deal ahead of Mega's public share offering.

Mega was cautious, saying the meeting was "early days" in negotiations, but it's understood Tainui has considered a multimillion-dollar investment in the new website.

Morgan refused to comment about the potential investment and Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio did not return calls, but Kim Dotcom confirmed Mega had been talking to "Maori investors and advisers".

Dotcom said Mega had raised $4 million of seed capital and had met several potential investors in recent months.

Mega is the file-hosting business created in the wake of Kim Dotcom's dramatic arrest last January in an FBI-ordered raid and the subsequent closure of his previous online service, Megaupload.

Dotcom is now fighting extradition to the US for copyright infringements, and has had a number of wins against the Crown, including the court-ordered return of his seized computer hard-drives on Friday. Mega was launched while Dotcom was on bail.

Dotcom said he planned a public share offering in Mega later this year and Mega was talking to "Maori investors and advisers".

"Mega is preparing for a pre-IPO investment round in a couple of months with the aim to raise [more than] $30m. At this stage, we have not entered into any agreement with Maori investors."

Mega chief executive Vikram Kumar confirmed the meeting with Morgan and others, saying it was "fairly early days" and Mega had held "informal discussions with a few people".

"It was a meeting in an informal setting. An open discussion. It wasn't just from a Mega perspective, not just a ‘you should invest in Mega' meeting, but about New Zealand's digital future as well."

Kumar said traditionally iwi had invested in agriculture and forestry, but investing in digital was more of an international approach.

"They were keen to know, what is the digital future for Maori," he said. "How would Maori benefit most from investments in 20 or 30 years?"

Tainui was the first iwi to agree a Waitangi Treaty settlement, collecting $170m in cash and Crown land in 1995. Its early investments were controversial; it's thought they blew more than $5m in a two-thirds investment in the Warriors rugby league team through their subsidiary, MDC Investment Holdings, which was liquidated in 2000.

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But Tainui Group Holdings adopted a more conservative investment approach after that, and successes have included The Base shopping complex at Te Rapa, Hamilton.

The tribe's structure separates the commercial arm from its marae-based parliament, Te Kauhanganui.

- Sunday Star Times

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