Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Govt takes $108m-a-year hit from asset sales: Treasury

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English talks with media about the Might River Power. Photograph by Greg Bowker
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English talks with media about the Might River Power. Photograph by Greg Bowker

The Government's partial asset sales programme will leave its operating balance $108 million a year worse off compared with the $49 million a year impact previously estimated.

Treasury provided an update on the fiscal impact of the ``mixed ownership model" in this morning's Half Year Economic and Fiscal update.

Treasury estimated the Government will lose out on $327 million a year in profits from Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Air NZ and Genesis Energy as a result of reducing its ownership to 51 per cent in each company.

The foregone profits include $321 million a year in lost dividends which will now go to investors who bought shares in the companies.

The total foregone profits are lower than the $340 million it previously expected to lose out on in the first full year following completion of the programme.

Treasury recently reduced its estimate of the amount raised by the programme and the mid point is now $4.8 billion compared with $6 billion six months ago. It expects that money will reduce Government borrowing by $4.2 billion.

That will in turn result in finance cost savings or reduced interest payments of $219 million a year.

The net effect is $108 million reduction in the operating balance. At the Budget Treasury estimated a net reduction in the operating balance of $49 million in the first full year following completion of the programme.

The reduction in proceeds from the asset sales and the fact the cash would all be received by the end of the 2014-15 year had altered the fiscal impact of the sales, Treasury said.

Net debt would would decrease sooner and that reduction would be smaller.
While the finance cost savings would decrease sooner, the Government's share of profits would be reduced sooner as well.

Finance Minister Bill English said the Government didn't regard estimates of foregone profits as reliable given the risk profile of businesses like those in the asset sales progamme.

He said the Government was happy to have reduced its exposure to risky commercial assets like the companies in the asset sales programme.

He said the asset sales had demonstrated that ``anyone can own these assets" but a more important role for the Crown was to use its balance sheet to manage the risks of natural disasters, social failure and long term welfare dependency.

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