Privatisation with a bonus – your Govt is working on some sweeteners (for those who need them)

The nation should be chuffed at the prospect of citizens being offered a bargain by their generous government.

Stuff (here) gives an account of what the deal might comprise.

Cheap share packets and bonus shares are being considered as the Government prepares its first sell-down of state-owned assets.

Stuff also says legislation for the sale of four energy companies was subject to fierce debate in Parliament yesterday, as it nears passage into law.

Dunno what a fierce debate is supposed to sound like.

A lot of futile hot air from the opposition, is how Alf would describe it.

But the opposition always knew we had the numbers, unless Peter Dunne buckled, and Pete is renowned for recognising a common-sense idea when he sees it.

The bloody Greens couldn’t even persuade him to support one of their amendments to keep partially sold state-owned assets open to public scrutiny. He said they were being “mischievous”.

State-owned assets are open to public scrutiny through the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman Act but under the Mixed Ownership Model Bill the partially sold enterprises would no longer be subject to those laws for commercial reasons which also exclude public companies.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman will put up an amendment to keep the state-owned assets subject such scrutiny.

However Dunne, who holds one of two crucial support votes for the Government, said today he wouldn’t be supporting the amendment.

“I’m not interested in supporting anything the Greens are putting forward on this.”

Norman said Dunne was being “incredibly unreasonable”.

“It’s not a very common sense position to oppose something solely on where it comes from rather than whether it is a good idea or not.”

But Green concepts of common sense tend be moulded in ill-developed brains, on account of the limited diets of muesli, bird seed, carrot sticks and what-have-you.

On the other hand, when it comes to genuine common sense rather than the warped sort, Treasury has been investigating ways to maximise local interest in the share float.

It is trying to meet a target of 85 to 90 per cent Kiwi ownership (which implies foreigners are bound to get their hands on some of the assets).

Stuff reports it has also employed market researchers to test what might attract potential investors.

Discounted prices and bonus shares could be offered exclusively to Kiwi investors.

In the 2010 selldown of Queensland Rail, local retail investors got a 10 cent discount on shares and were eligible for loyalty bonuses of one share for every 15 shares allocated. The share offer allocated 34 per cent of shares to 80,000 retail investors and 66 per cent for institutional investors.

Officials have also looked into sales in Britain.

Our trusty Finance Minister, Bill English, said Treasury is working on a range of options suggested by the market, advisers and by ministers who have talked to members of the general public interested in buying shares.

“We of course have to weigh up the costs, but the Government has said right from the start that we want to achieve widespread New Zealand ownership. If we were totally focused on the maximum value then we wouldn’t be laying down requirements about who’s going to own it but we’ve said we want widespread New Zealand ownership for these companies.”

Bill says loyalty schemes are among the ideas being assessed “because we want to see what is going to encourage the most New Zealanders to buy these shares”.

Prime Minister John Key has been drawn to the idea, too.

He said he liked the fact that loyalty schemes gave “mum and dad investors” another reason to buy shares.

The “vast bulk of New Zealanders” had not owned shares and the sale process would be pitched at retail buyers.

“The parcel that they can buy will be priced at the lowest-sized parcel we can, taking into consideration there are always transaction fees and the like so we can’t have that obviously set too low, but my view would be, we’d want to try and make as many New Zealanders as credibly [possible] being able to buy these shares as we can.”

Labour leader David Shearer is a sour bugger who said we are trying to “desperately sweeten” a “pretty bitter pill for most New Zealanders”.

Why not sweeten it?

Alf rather fancies the idea of buying five shares – let’s say – and getting a fifth one free.

This means he will have that many more shares to sell when the price is right.

And no, he will not baulk at selling to foreigners. Their money is as good as Kiwi money – although in the case of Greeks or Spaniards it would make sense to have them stump up with the cash before letting them have the scrip.

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