Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Longer delay to asset sale expected

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Investment experts say the sell down of Mighty River Power could be pushed out towards the end of next year with one questioning whether the partial sale of state-owned enterprises will happen at all.

Milford Asset Management executive director Brian Gaynor says he has severe doubts about the Government going ahead with the partial sale of energy companies, putting the chances of it happening at less than 50-50.

Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday that the first float on the agenda - Mighty River Power - would be delayed from this month until the second quarter of 2013 to allow for more consultation with iwi.

But the delay has raised concerns among the investment community about it going ahead at all.

Gaynor said the asset sales had been a key National government policy but the delay signalled an admission of defeat and there were now a number of stumbling blocks faced by the power companies, ranging from the water rights issue to negotiations over the Tiwai Point contract and the potential for low growth in the industry.

"It is a bit of a battle."

Gaynor, a Herald columnist, predicted the delay would prompt aggrieved parties to fight even harder.

"Every time this happens it reduces the price and creates more uncertainty for investors."

Three months ago there were fewer issues, he said.

"The thing is caving in on them."

Gaynor said he doubted discussions with iwi would be resolved quickly and even if the water rights issue was negated he expected other areas to be challenged as well.

Gaynor said the sale process had been run poorly as no one person had taken responsibility for it.

"You've got to make somebody accountable."

Fellow fund manager Paul Glass said he would be very surprised if the Mighty River deal got done in the first half of next year.

Glass said iwi consultation could easily spill into next year as could any court action.

"I would be very surprised if it gets dealt with in the first half of next year."

But Glass said it was sensible for the Government to delay the float because it was difficult to bring the investment to market without resolving the issues with Maori or concerns over Tiwai Point.

Shareholders Association chairman John Hawkins said if the floats didn't go ahead it would be extremely disappointing because there were not many large corporates which listed on the New Zealand sharemarket.

"Investors are looking for things with growth and good dividends. This low interest rate environment is hurting a lot of people who have saved for their retirement and are struggling with incomes that are half what they used to be."

Hawkins said there were a lot of investors looking for sound, established companies and the delay to the float of Mighty River Power was disappointing.

"To that extent they will be feeling frustrated."

But Hawkins said it was better to wait if it allowed the Government to sort through the issues.

"Getting it right is important. Investors don't want a pig in a poke."

TV CAMPAIGN TO CONTINUE

New Zealand's largest broking firm says it will plough ahead with a high-profile advertising campaign, despite the delay to the float of Mighty River Power.

Craigs Investment Partners, one of four companies officially ratified by the Government to sell Mighty River shares to the public, last month launched a TV ad campaign.

Craigs managing director Frank Aldridge said the Mighty River Power float, which had been expected to go ahead this month, was not the only driver for the adverts. "We were doing a brand campaign anyway. We will continue with the same advertising. There will be no change to that."

Aldridge said the ads were aimed at raising the profile of the company.

He said the first the company knew of the delay to the share sale was the press announcement made by Prime Minister John Key on Monday.

Aldridge said the company was "boxing on" with business and speculated the delay to Mighty River could open up a window for other companies, which might have been holding off, to float in the next few months.

- NZ Herald

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