An academic who has studied thousands of privatisations of state assets around the world says the Government is going about its "mixed ownership" plan in the right way.

William Megginson, professor at the University of Oklahoma, said New Zealand's proposed partial privatisation programme was ambitious.

"They seem to be doing it right, getting the mandate and doing it through share issues," he said.

"In most countries privatisation is a dirty word, it's not a popular programme. The thing is that the economic evidence is that it does work."


If it wins the election the Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, and Solid Energy, and to reduce taxpayer shareholding in Air NZ over three to five years starting next year.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey last month found most oppose SOE sales with those moderately or strongly against them making up 56 per cent of respondents.

Megginson spoke at Massey University's Albany and Massey campuses last week and today will address an audience of chief executives, politicians and academics at a forum hosted by the Business Roundtable.

The global privatisation push fluctuates.

"It comes in and out of style," he said. "Sometimes there's a lot going on, sometimes it tapers off."

Last year was a record for privatisation with US$210 billion ($250 billion) worth sold off around the world. Europe led the way with privatisation in the 1980s, now it is overwhelmingly in Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Wherever there were asset sales, there was debate about "selling the family silver," he said.