Air NZ shares resume selling at Friday's closing price

Air New Zealand shares will resume trading this morning after the Government last night completed the sale of a further 20% of the national carrier at $1.65 a share.

More than 221 million shares were sold, raising $365 million for the Government as it presses on with its sale of state-owned enterprises.

The $1.65 sale price was the same as when the shares closed on Friday night, before a trading halt was imposed while the book build was completed.

Finance Minister Bill English said sale proceeds would be allocated to the Future Investment Fund, which was set up to build assets like schools and hospitals while controlling government debt.

Already, Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy have been sold down, and $3.93 billion will have been raised once the Air NZ proceeds are included.

The Government originally expected between $5 billion and $7 billion from sales of Mighty River, Meridian, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy and Air NZ.

Solid Energy was withdrawn for sale as the Government and banks injected equity to stop it going into liquidation, leaving only Genesis to come. The smallest of the energy companies is unlikely to make $1 billion.

Mr English said when shares resumed trading, he expected about 88% of the airline would be owned by New Zealanders, including the Government's 53% stake.

Of shares sold, 41% were taken up by retail investors, 43% by New Zealand institutions and 16% by overseas institutions.

State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said there was ''significant demand'' from New Zealand retail broking firms and New Zealand institutions, including KiwiSaver participants.

Together, they purchased 186 million of the 221 million shares sold.

New Zealand brokers would be responsible for on-selling shares they purchased to clients who met the New Zealander eligibility rules.

Brokers were expected to start the allocation process last night and complete it today, Mr Ryall said.

''Air NZ is a strong New Zealand brand recognised around the world. We are pleased with the high level of interest in Air NZ shares.''

Opposition political parties have accused the Government of being cynical and unethical selling the Air NZ shares in the week the referendum on SOE sales is launched.

Voting papers asking New Zealanders whether they approve or disapprove of the sale of up to 49% of the assets will be posted on Friday.

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