State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall is keeping the door open to asset sale delays.
“Let me be quite clear here. If the government doesn’t get a good price, the government isn’t going to sell,” Mr Ryall said on TVNZ's Q+A this morning.
The minister wouldn't say what “a good price” would be, but confirmed he has received advice on what that price should be.
Complicating matters, assets won’t be sold “to the highest bidder”, as government seeks to keep assets in New Zealand hands: “There is a tension, a trade-off,” Mr Ryall said.
Not a cent of the profits from Mighty River Power sale will go to pay down debt, said the minister.
“All the proceeds in Mighty River Power are going to avoid us having to get more debt.”
Changing ownership of power companies won’t make any difference to power prices or job numbers, the minister said.
He would give no guarantees of New Zealand ownership of the 49% floated.
"While we’re going to aim to have 85% to 90% of these companies New Zealand-owned at float, what happens after that is really determined by the individual New Zealand shareholders and entities,” Mr Ryall said.
Mr Ryall conceded government would have got more if it had sold to a single buyer, but National wouldn’t have received the support it did at the election if it had done that.
"We would not have the mandate that we got at the election if we had proposed that it would be a 49% sell-off to one shareholder.”
Mr Ryall would not endorse Treasury’s valuation of Mighty River Power ($3.75 billion - or $1.8 billon for the 49% float), saying “We’re going to have to wait to see what comes out from the sales process.”
The Mighty River Power sale is planned for late in third quarter – not in the next few weeks, the minister said. A register of interest in shares won't begin until August or September.