Government confirms partial Air New Zealand sale

Government confirms partial Air New Zealand sale

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand government confirmed Sunday the partial sell-off of national flag carrier Air New Zealand to local and offshore institutions.

It did not say how much it expected to raise from the long-expected sale but market analysts have previously forecast about NZ$400 million (S$415 million).

The government will reduce its holding from 73 per cent to 53 per cent in the sale which will commence on Monday, Finance Minister Bill English said.

"We expect the transaction to be completed by Tuesday evening," added English, without saying who might buy the shares.

Craigs Investment Partners, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs have been appointed to undertake the transaction and work with New Zealand stockbrokers.

Air New Zealand, which is listed on both the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges (NZX and ASX), has been trading in recent weeks around a five-year high and closed in New Zealand on Friday at NZ$1.65.

The airline said it would request a trading halt on the two exchanges while the sale process was carried out.

"Shareholding sell-downs of this type are typically conducted off-market when the company's shares are not trading on a stock exchange, to ensure the company's share price is not affected by speculative trading," English said.

"We expect Air New Zealand's shares to resume trading on the NZX and ASX on Wednesday."

The sale is being carried out just days ahead of a national referendum on the sale of government assets which has so far seen the disposal of 49 per cent of electricity generating companies Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said the first two share offers had raised NZ$3.6 billion.

"The proceeds of the programme have been allocated to the Future Investment Fund so the money can be reinvested in new assets and new infrastructure without the need to borrow money from overseas lenders," he said.

Air New Zealand issued a statement saying it considered the sale "a matter solely for the government" and would not comment further.

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