Referendum even more redundant

Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall have announced the timetable for the partial float of Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy and further selling down of Air New Zealand shares.

The Government has confirmed New Zealanders will have the opportunity to invest in a minority shareholding in Meridian Energy from later this month, before an expected sharemarket listing on 29 October.

Full details will be set out when the offer document is lodged this Friday 20 September, Finance Minister Bill English and State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall say.

Pre-offer marketing will start this evening, ensuring New Zealanders are aware of the Meridian offer through television, newspaper and online advertising. This will explain how people can get more information, including ordering an offer document.

As with the Mighty River Power share offer earlier this year, New Zealanders will again be at the front of the queue for shares in Meridian, Mr English says.

“The Government was very clear about the opportunity for New Zealanders when we put our share offers programme to New Zealanders during the 2011 election campaign. The compelling reasons for proceeding with the share offers are as valid today.

“The Government share offer will enable New Zealanders to invest in big Kiwi companies at a time when they are telling us they want to diversify their growing savings away from property, bank deposits and finance companies.

“And we can invest the proceeds in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow that money in volatile overseas markets, and increase debt.”

As Ministers have previously indicated, investors will buy Meridian shares in two instalments over 18 months. This means investors will need to pay only around 60 per cent of the price up front – but they will receive in full any dividends.

In addition, there will be a price cap for New Zealand retail applicants to provide more certainty about how much the shares will cost.

Mr English says further decisions have now been confirmed, including:

  • The Meridian offer document will be lodged this Friday 20 September, setting out all the information investors need to make an informed decision about whether to invest. This will include the price range, the price of the first instalment, the capped price of the second instalment and the expected yield.
  • After the offer document is lodged, the Financial Markets Authority has around five business days to review the document. This ‘consideration period’ is expected to conclude on 27 September.
  • New Zealanders will then have three weeks from 30 September to consider the offer document and apply for shares before the general offer closes on 18 October. This will be followed by a book-build process where institutions bid for shares.
  • It is expected that Meridian will list on the New Zealand and Australian sharemarkets on 29 October.

Mr Ryall says the offer process puts New Zealanders at the front of the queue for shares and will ensure they have easy access to information.

“To help achieve this, a retail syndicate will be marketing the offer to New Zealanders, and they will offer information and advice to their clients.

“In addition, we have included what is called a ‘broker firm’ aspect to the Meridian offer. Under this arrangement, brokers assess demand from their clients and submit bids, and the Government then chooses how much to allocate them.

“Just like the retail offer, this process is open only to New Zealanders and is consistent with our commitment to ensuring 85-90 per cent New Zealand ownership of the shares,” Mr Ryall says.

Ministers have also confirmed they are considering options for Genesis Energy and Air New Zealand – two of the other companies in the Government’s share offer programme.

“As the Prime Minister said last month, we anticipate that the Genesis Energy share offer will occur in the first half of 2014, subject to market conditions,” Mr Ryall says. “Preliminary work is underway and will continue over the next few months.”

The Air New Zealand share offer will be different to the others, as it is already a sharemarket-listed company.

“What that means is that New Zealanders can buy shares in the company now, if they wish,” Mr Ryall says.

“We are currently working through the best way the sell down can occur and we remain keen to ensure that New Zealanders have the opportunity to participate in it.  At this stage, no final decisions have been made, including on timing. However, when it occurs we expect it will be a shorter process than that used for Meridian and Mighty River Power.”

This makes the politicians’ referendum on the partial sale of a few state owned assets now even more redundant.

It was always only political posturing.

It was never going to have any impact on government policy which was clearly signalled before the 2011 election, made the issue by the opposition and had already begun with the partial float of Mighty River Power before enough signatures had been gathered.

That Grey Power which fronted the referendum petition has now negotiated a deal for its members with a private power company makes it not just redundant but hypocritical.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and none of the four Citizens Initiated Referendums we’ve had since they were introduced in 1993 have achieved anything.

There are better, and cheaper, ways to make a point and influence policy.

All the latest one does is reinforce the growing body of opinion that Citizens Initiated Referendums have had their day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: