17 Nov 2013

Air New Zealand shares for sale

6:48 pm on 17 November 2013

The Government is to sell 20% of Air New Zealand over the next few days, dropping its stake in the national airline from 73% to 53%.

Finance Minister Bill English said the sale would be through sharebrokers and would take place over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Air NZ planes

Photo: RNZ

Trading in the shares will be halted while the sale takes place. On Friday the shares were trading at $1.65.

Mr English said New Zealanders would be at the front of the queue for shares and he was confident the Government's objective of having 85% of the company owned by New Zealanders would be achieved.

Sharebroking firms Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs have been appointed to carry out the sale.

Mr English said Air New Zealand was different from the other companies in the Government asset sale programme in that it is already listed on the New Zealand and Australian sharemarkets.

That means a different process is being used to sell the shares.

The shares will be sold via a competitive bookbuild process to New Zealand sharebrokers for on-sale to New Zealanders, and to New Zealand and some overseas institutional investors.

The price will be decided by the Government, based on the bidding price offered by investors through the bookbuild process.

Mr English said the company's shares are currently trading at five-year highs, making it an opportune time to conduct the sell-down.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall has rejected a suggestion the Government is rushing the Air New Zealand sale to get it done before a referendum on asset sales.

"We were very clear two-and-a-half years ago that we had these assets that we wanted to sell, we've been stepping our way through them," he says.

Mr Ryall says all the advice the Government is getting is that this is a good time to sell the shares.

Labour Party state owned enterprises spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove is not confident that most shares will remain in New Zealand hands.

He says any government guarantee about who they will be sold to lasts only until the shares hit the stockmarket.