Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Kiwis at head of queue for shares - Key

Govt wants at least 85 per cent of Mighty River to be owned by local buyers as sale starts.

Ordinary New Zealanders will be favoured "at every turn" of the Mighty River Power share sale which gets underway today, says Prime Minister John Key, who has pledged at least $2000 worth of shares for those who want them.

But Mr Key was unable to give a guarantee that no more than 15 per cent of the company would pass into foreign hands in the initial sale.

After months of delays, Mr Key and his Cabinet yesterday passed the order in council which effectively begins the process of selling up to 49 per cent of the $3.6 billion state-owned electricity company.

Announcing the sales process would begin today with a three-week "pre-registration" phase to allow ordinary investors to indicate their interest, Mr Key yesterday confirmed the minimum package sold would be $1000 worth. Any applications to buy up to $2000 worth would be accepted in full.

Applications to buy more than that may be scaled back if demand for the shares exceeds the amount available.

The share guarantee is among the sweeteners, including a Kiwis-only share loyalty scheme, which the Government hopes will counter public opposition to the sale, much of which springs from concerns about foreign ownership.

Mr Key said the 2-month sales process - which includes a $1 million advertising blitz beginning today - will be "highly political", but his Government's intentions were "crystal clear".

"That is to put New Zealanders at the front of the queue, to ensure that at least 85 per cent of the company is owned by New Zealanders, and that New Zealanders at every turn are favoured," he said.

"In the end I can't guarantee you a number today but what I can tell you is I think it's extremely unlikely it will be under 85 per cent."

Labour leader David Shearer said Mr Key had so far been unable to explain how he would prevent more than 15 per cent of Mighty River shares going to overseas investors.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the $1 million advertising campaign "shows National knows how unpopular this policy is ... They're doing everything they can to try and sweeten the deal".

Read more: Brokers ready for float

- NZ Herald

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