Sale ends Crowns take in airport

The end of partial Crown ownership of Invercargill Airport Ltd heralds ''the next stage of evolution'' for the company, chairman Joe O'Connell says.

The Government's shareholding fell at the end of last year, and yesterday State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall announced the remaining 2.82% had been sold to four southern Maori runanga for $5600.

They are the Oraka-Aparima (Colac Bay), Awarua (Bluff), Waihopai (Invercargill) and Hokonui (Gore) runanga.

Invercargill City Holdings Ltd - known as Holdco - the Invercargill City Council-owned company which manages the council's trading companies, owns the rest of the shares.

Mr O'Connell said the Crown's shareholding fell last year when it decided not to participate in an equity-raising share float to fund a $3 million upgrade of the tarmac apron and a resealing of the runway.

Holdco took up the extra shares, increasing its holding to 97.18%.

A few months ago, Holdco approached the Government to buy the remaining shares, he said.

Mr Ryall said Ngai Tahu exercised its right to buy under a deed of grant of right of first refusal linked to the 1997 Ngai Tahu settlement.

''This is the next stage of the evolution of the company,'' Mr O'Connell said.

''The Government doesn't see involvement in the airport as core, but the Invercargill City Council, through Holdco, does.''

The airport company is planning to spend $13.38 million over the next two years replacing the passenger terminal. Holdco is funding the work.

Waihopai Runaka spokesman Michael Skerrett said yesterday the four runanga were unlikely to increase their shareholdings in the future or put money into the terminal redevelopment.

''The airport has never made money and is never going to make money.

"As far as I am concerned we are doing this to show support for a local business because we had the opportunity to do so. It's about relationships.''



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