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State-owned Assets, Sales—Ownership of Shares

Tuesday 6 September 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Goff5. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does he stand by his statement in relation to part-privatisation of State-owned assets that “there will be some wholesale investors from overseas who will want to buy a little bit of these shares”?

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Why did the attendees at the recent National Party conference totally disbelieve the Minister of Finance when he made that same claim?

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

The newspaper was wrong, was it?

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

What restriction, if any, will there be on those buying shares in State assets from onselling those shares to foreign investors?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

As I pointed out, on the occasion the member is referring to the Government does not intend to bring in on-selling restrictions, because if we are going to have a market, we may as well have a market. But I would point out to the member that in the last 4 or 5 years there has been a trend towards greater New Zealand ownership of the New Zealand Exchange and less foreign ownership. In the case of the Port of Tauranga, which is under mixed ownership, New Zealand’s ownership proportion of the Port of Tauranga is growing. We believe that with the success of the Government’s policies encouraging New Zealanders to save, New Zealanders will want to buy these shares, and they will hold on to them.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When there is no restriction at all on people onselling the whole 49 percent of those shares to foreign investors, how can he make the claim that 85 to 90 percent of those shares will be in Kiwi hands long term; or is that just wishful thinking?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

We believe that New Zealanders will retain the shares. That is the track record of the last substantial float directly to New Zealanders. As I pointed out, with New Zealanders now saving more, there is a trend towards New Zealanders buying back the foreign ownership of shares.

AdamsAmy Adams Link to this

What recent evidence has he seen of strong local demand for domestic assets?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

There was an example just last week. Air New Zealand, which was set up as a mixed-ownership company by the previous Labour Government and has operated in that way for—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

No, no—rescued. Rescued when it was a private company that went broke.

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

Well, I presume the Labour Government knew what it was doing. I presume the Labour Government knew it was setting up Air New Zealand as mixed ownership. It raised $150 million of 5-year bonds from the local market. There was obviously very strong demand. There was no need to sell through a public pool because there was such strong demand for Air New Zealand bonds. We believe there will be the same kind of strong demand for Air New Zealand shares.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Is he prepared to give an absolute guarantee that a future National Government would not sell 100 percent of the shares in any State-owned asset, and would that guarantee be as reliable as the Prime Minister’s promise that “We will not be increasing GST.”, and the other one, that the Government share going into KiwiSaver would remain intact?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

The Government is doing exactly what it said it would do. Before the last election the National Opposition said that it would retain all State assets and that it would not sell any until or unless it had a mandate from the New Zealand public to do so. In this election campaign we are campaigning on the mixed-ownership model, and New Zealanders will have the opportunity to vote on a very clear proposition. As part of that, we have guaranteed that the Government will retain 51 percent ownership.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Does he stand by his earlier statement that dividends from the State-owned assets that will be sold, or part-sold, helped pay for social services such as health care, and does it follow that if he is selling half of the shares in those companies, then half of the dividends—which would have been, the previous financial year, $800 million, or the last financial year, $900 million—will no longer be available for that purpose?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

Certainly, of the $800 million that the member refers to in the last year, about half of it will not be available again, because it consists of the proceeds of the asset swap that was done between Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy, which effectively released $500 million to the Government. Of course spending will be tight over the next 3 or 4 years, because we are still trying to get hold of the rapid upsurge in spending that occurred under the last Government.