Ngai Tahu may take stake in council

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014

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Ngai Tahu is expected to be one of the partners invited to take a stake in the cash-strapped Christchurch City Council's commercial and investment arm.

The council is considering releasing up to $400 million in capital from Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) as part of a plan to reduce its funding shortfall, which has been calculated by investment bankers Cameron Partners to reach up to $883m by 2019.

CCHL owns 75 per cent of Christchurch International Airport and is also the majority shareholder in the Lyttelton Port Company and Orion.

It also owns City Care, Enable and Red Bus Ltd.

The council intends to start consulting the public about the options it could take to release the capital it needs on September 4 - the fourth anniversary of the start of the Canterbury earthquakes.

"One of the options we will engage on . . . is to invite one or more strategic partners to take a stake in CCHL," Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

"We would protect the city's long-term interests by ring-fencing the quantum of any such proposal and ensuring that the shares return to the council through a right of first refusal so they are not available to the open market."

Dalziel refused to be drawn on who the council's strategic partners were but The Press understands Ngai Tahu is among them.

Ngai Tahu, through its commercial and investment arm, Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation, owns or part-owns businesses throughout the country.

It has a stake in Ryman Health Care and owns several tourism businesses in the South Island including Whale Watch Kaikoura and Shotover Jet.

It is also involved in the seafood industry and has property holdings worth close to $500m.

According to its 2013 annual report, the Ngai Tahu group has $877.26m in equity and posted a profit in the year ended June 2013 of more than $121m.

When asked yesterday if the corporation would be interested in taking a stake in CCHL the company's chief executive, Mike Sang, said: "We are committed to the city and our relationship with [the council].

"We look forward with interest to assessing the merits of any specific opportunity."

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