Money Editor for NZ Herald

Govt asset-sale shares drop

Disappointing performance of first three in programme may prevent Genesis float: expert

Shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian and Air New Zealand all fell yesterday. Photo / David White
Shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian and Air New Zealand all fell yesterday. Photo / David White

The Government's asset sales programme suffered another knock yesterday with shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian and Air New Zealand all falling.

Mighty River Power touched $2.085 - the lowest it has traded at since the Government floated the company in May with a $2.50 issue price. It closed on a new low of $2.10.

Meanwhile, Meridian Energy sank below its $1 issue price for the first time since its October sharemarket listing, dipping to 99c before closing on par with the issue price.

Air New Zealand shares dropped 8.5c to close on $1.565 fresh from the Government's 20 per cent sell-down. The declines came as the market had a down day with the benchmark NZX 50 index falling 0.46 per cent or 22 points to 4840.

Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management, said it was possible the weakness in Meridian came from funding pressure as people sold stock to take up shares in Air NZ.

The poor performance of Air NZ came as a surprise to market watchers.

Mark Lister, head of research at Craigs Investment Partners, said: "I was a bit surprised. I thought it would have gone up."

The Government sold down its stake in Air NZ for $1.65 apiece - a zero per cent discount to its pre-sell-down closing price.

Lister said the lack of discount had indicated robust demand but people might have sold shares after receiving more than they expected in the book-build process. Brian Gaynor, executive director of Milford Asset Management, said the performance of the three asset sales was "terribly disappointing" and not helpful for encouraging investors into the sharemarket.

Gaynor said he did not believe there was a "hope in hell" of the Government going ahead with the sale of Genesis Energy - the last asset left it its sales programme.

"The earliest they could do that float is April, only six months out from the election. Unless things change dramatically for Mighty River Power and Meridian it won't happen."

Gaynor said he did expect Air NZ's share price to recover from yesterday's fall and blamed the poor performance on the Treasury's allocation of the stock.

He said the shares had been spread too thinly across the international institutions, leaving them with too small a parcel, and brokers had not been given enough time to canvass retail buyers, leaving them with an oversupply.

"If you want retail investors to invest you've got to give them more time."

But Finance Minister Bill English said he was not disappointed by the performance of the assets sales and investors had not lost any money.

- NZ Herald

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