Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:
The partial sale of Mighty River Power has been delayed until next year, Prime Minister John Key confirmed this afternoon.
Mr Key said the sale would now take place in the period from March to June and would be followed by the partial sale of either Genesis or Meridian later next year.
This is a significant decision. While MRP will still be floated, the chance of having all five sales before the 2014 election is diminished. National would ideally like them all completed so that 2014 is not about any further asset sales, but other issues. So Labour will be happy with today’s decision. They will also be more likely to get the signatures for their petition completed in time, so that the petition is validated before the first sale. They will then use that to call for a further delay (which of course will not happen).
I guess the Government wasn’t confident that if they did not delay, that legal action wouldn’t force a delay anyway. So this is probably a case of making a virtue out of necessity.
This is also a win for the Maori Party. They will use the delay as proof that being constructively engaged with Government, is better than total opposition to everything as Mana does.
One possibility for the Government is to only sell minority stakes in three SOES, not four (Air NZ is not an SOE), which could still be done before the 2014 election. There is a case for the time being very bad for Solid Energy, and also a case for not selling Genesis (which I will blog on later this week). Both of these companies are pretty small compared to the others.