Tick for Govt on asset sales

Air New Zealand's share price has improved the most since the sell-down of the Government's share...
Air New Zealand's share price has improved the most since the sell-down of the Government's share in the national carrier. Photo supplied.
Craigs Investment Partners has given the Government a seven out of 10 when it comes to getting value for the taxpayer from the mixed ownership model. Business editor Dene Mackenzie looks at some of the other returns.

The Government raised $4.67 billion in total from the sale of minority stakes in the four companies it sold down during the last 12 months.

The original target was to raise $5 billion to $7 billion, although that included Solid Energy, so the revised target became $4.6 billion to $5 billion.

Solid Energy needed to be bailed out by the Government and the banks as it struggled to avoid bankruptcy. The Government withdrew the company from the mixed ownership model sell-down.

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth Mark Lister said the Government just scraped into the bottom of the range, ''quite commendable'' especially given the political drama that had occurred throughout the process.

''Genesis was probably sold too cheaply but the taxpayer was the big winner with Mighty River Power - and remember Genesis represented just 15% of total proceeds while Mighty River Power accounted for 36%. On balance, a fair and acceptable result.''

A seven out of 10, he said.

The Government received an eight out of 10 for offering good returns to investors.

Mr Lister said three out of four was not bad. The NZX50 delivered a 14.9% return over the past year, yet Meridian was up 22% since October, Air New Zealand was up 28% since November and Genesis was up 17% since April 17.

Mighty River Power had been a poor performer, returning 6.6%, although that was mainly due to mispricing at the start. Operationally, the company had done well.

''But with an average return from all four of 15%, [at April 17] it's difficult to argue that investors who have supported the programme all the way through have done badly.

''Some will argue it was much easier to get big allocations of the worst performer - Mighty River Power - while nobody got much Genesis. But there was plenty of Meridian and Air New Zealand to go around at the time and those have been the two best performers of the bunch.''

The Government received only a four out of 10 in getting a new generation of New Zealanders to embrace share investing, Mr Lister said.

The programme was a great opportunity to give ''everyday people'' a good experience in owning shares in solid, predictable, reliable companies. It was hoped that would have been a step in growing New Zealand's capital markets, teaching people the sharemarket was not just a casino, and making potential investors consider something other than another rental property.

Mighty River Power should have looked like Genesis did, he said.

It should have had generous pricing and an even more generous retail incentive and a solid after-market performance.

''That would have ensured more widespread retail participation - especially from first-timers - and the bragging during last summer would have ensured the next three got even more solid support.''

The Government could have then afforded to get slightly less generous as the programme went on, Mr Lister said.

Instead, many of first-time investors got burnt on Mighty River Power and stayed away from the next three which all turned out to be good investments. The more experienced retail investors reaped the benefits of Meridian, Air NZ and Genesis.

The 111,000 new share investors that emerged during the course of the programme were welcomed but the number should have been much higher, he said.


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