Liam Dann 's Opinion

Business editor of the NZ Herald

Liam Dann: Genesis sale a backdown or just pragmatism?

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Is the Government decision to sell as little as 30 per cent of Genesis a back down or just pragmatism?

That probably depends exactly where you sit on the political divide. But you could make a strong case that it is both.

Genesis float - Govt may sell less if demand low

State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall was on the defensive in the initial press release "State Owned Enterprises we announced the share offer programme almost three years ago, we said that we would sell up to 49 per cent of these companies, subject to market conditions."

Reaching for the fine print is a bit of an admission of sorts.

The asset sale programme has not been the success that many in the market and within the Government would have hoped.

"...the long term economic case for keeping the assets isn't so different to the one the Government has used to convince shareholders to buy them."
Liam Dann

The goal was 49 per cent of each power company and a grand total of $6.1 billion for the state.

Last December Bill English revised that to $4.8 billion and perhaps that will go lower if demand isn't there for Genesis.

The Opposition's threat to regulate the energy market has been costly for the Government.

But if - like Bill English - you don't have an ideological issue with sale and are comfortable that these assets remain state controlled then you'd still argue that the programme has unlocked billions of under-utlised capital which can now be put to better use.

The flip side to that argument is that the long term economic case for keeping the assets isn't so different to the one the Government has used to convince shareholders to buy them.

They are all about the dividends.

Shareholders haven't been thrilled with the market performance but today's Mighty River Power result was a reminder that with a return of 5.2 per cent (based on the $2.50 issue price) Mighty River remains a solid investment.

See John Key discussing the Genesis sale here:

Video

- NZ Herald

Liam Dann

Business editor of the NZ Herald

Liam Dann is the Business editor of the New Zealand Herald, overseeing all our business content in print and online. He has been a journalist for 20 years, covering business for the last 14 of them. He has also worked in the banking sector in London and travelled extensively. His passion is for Markets and Economics, because they are the engine of the New Zealand economy.

Read more by Liam Dann

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