State-owned coal miner Solid Energy's chairman John Palmer will step down this year to help smooth the transition away from full Crown ownership.

The sale of up to 49 per cent of the mining company will an intense process, and Palmer's personal situation means he won't be able to continue when his term ends next year, he said in a statement.

"This will create a heavy workload for the board and the chairman," he said. "It is preferable to allow a new chair to get well-established as soon as possible to provide continuity and lead the company through this period."

The Government plans to kick off its partial privatisation programme in the third quarter of this year, where it will sell down minority stakes in MightyRiverPower, Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand in a bid to net as much as $7 billion.


The Mixed Ownership Model Bill passed committee stage in Parliament yesterday, and is expected to pass into law when the House next sits on Tuesday.

Palmer said he strongly supports the sale, and earlier this year told Parliament's commerce committee the coal miner's capital needs and risk profile were quite different from the electricity companies.

He joined the board of Solid Energy in November 2006, and was appointed chairman two months later. Palmer is also the chairman of Air New Zealand and Rabobank New Zealand and a director of AMP.

Solid Energy made a profit of $70.3 million in the six months ended December 31 on revenue of $537.6 million. It's forecast to lift sales to $1.16 billion and profit to $170.9 million by 2016 with a growing but still minor contribution from wood pellets, biodiesel and briquettes, according to an assessment by brokerage Forsyth Barr.