Samoa sells stake in Pacific shipping firm

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:59 12/09/2013

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Samoa has sold its 50 per cent stake in the Pacific Forum Line (PFL) just under a year after New Zealand gave Samoa its 23 per cent stake in the shipping company.

Neptune Pacific Line says it has bought the shares from the Samoan government.

Neptune is wholly owned by an unusual Californian privately owned company, Roll Global. It also owns one of the world's best-selling water brands - Fiji Water - and Teleflora.

Roll Global is owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick who have a personal worth of about US$3 billion ($3.7 billion).

During the Vietnam War, Lynda Resnick - then single - helped a friend print and distribute top-secret military documents.

Her friend was Daniel Ellsberg, and after the documents were printed in the New York Times they became known as the Pentagon Papers.

The FBI tried to prosecute her for more than two years but no indictment followed.

The New Zealand government agreed in October last year to sell its stake in the unprofitable shipping line to the Samoan government after the privately owned Sofrana Line tried to buy the stake.

Samoa's move came at the last moment. It exercised pre-existing shareholder rights to trump Sofrana's offer and become the sole owner.

New Zealand and 11 Pacific countries had equal voting rights in PFL, but practical control has been exerted by New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea which between them owned about three-quarters of the company's shares.

New Zealand's 23 per cent stake was valued at $1.16 million in 2011.

At the time, the Samoan government newspaper Savali said that when the country tried to pay 500,000 Samoan tala to New Zealand, Foreign Minister Murray McCully declined it.

Founded in 1978, PFL was intended to encourage economic development in the islands and provide competition to ensure private shipping operators were unable to create a monopoly in the Pacific.

The line has experienced heavy weather in recent years with significant losses reducing net assets to $5.1m by June 2011.

Neptune said in a statement its purchase of PFL brought together two Pacific Island specialists with complementary service routes.

As a result of this agreement, Neptune and PFL will provide services to all forum countries except Tuvalu, Niue and Marshall Islands, fulfilling the commitment of the Samoan government to the forum member countries in maintaining the mission of PFL in the Pacific region.

Neptune was established in 1997 to provide liner and bulk shipping services in the trades between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

It is a ship owner and operator in the Pacific.

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- Fairfax Media

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