Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

English: SOE sale forecasts not 'refined'

Finance Minister Bill English. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Bill English. File photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government has acknowledged that the state owned power company profits it will lose as a result of partially selling them will exceed the savings from the resulting reduction in debt.

Commenting on the Budget Policy statement released this morning, Finance Minister Bill English said the plan to sell up to 49 per cent of the four power companies and to reduce its stake in Air NZ would result in a $6 billion reduction in net debt. It would also fund new capital investment, such as schools and hospitals.

However, it would also result in a "small" reduction in the government's operating balance.

"Profits attributable to minority shareholders (foregone profits) will reduce the surplus - which is partly offset by a reduction in finance costs on the reduced debt."

"Over the mixed ownership program, the forecast finance cost savings exceed the forecast foregone dividends," Mr English said.

"However those savings are less than the total forecast foregone profits of the SOEs - which include both dividends and retained earnings.

"That is because State-owned enterprises are expected to earn a commercial rate of return that reflects the risk of owning such companies."

According the Budget Policy Statement itself, the Government will book $1.5 billion a year for four years beginning in 2013 from the asset sale program which begins later this year with the sale of share in Mighty River Power.

In the first year of the program the forecast foregone dividends are $50 million against estimated finance cost savings of $54 million.

By 2016 the forecast foregone dividends are $200 million against finance cost savings of $266 million.

However by then the forecast foregone profits to minority shareholders which include non cash gains are $360 million.

Mr English said the cumulative reduction in net debt resulting from the asset sale program by 2016 was just over $6 billion.

In as speech given at Victoria University last night, Mr English said estimates of foregone profits and dividends were based on four averages of the companies' own forecasts. This morning he acknowledged that the forecasts around the mixed ownership model were not "refined judgements" but remained rough estimates.

Mr English also said the Government's estimate of raising $6 billion from the asset sale program represented sale prices that were in excess of the companies' book values.

This morning he said the fiscal impact of the program "will be roughly neutral and we will have significantly less debt".

- NZ Herald

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