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Official Information On Airways UK Bid

Minister Releases Information On Airways Involvement In UK Bid

The Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton today released papers under the Official Information Act relating to the involvement of the Airways Corporation of New Zealand in a bid for a stake in the UK's National Air Traffic Service.

"The papers show that the Government took allegations made against Airways seriously and moved swiftly to conduct a thorough investigation, which included an independent review by the Auditor-General", Mark Burton said.

"The allegations were found to be without substance."

In March, the UK Government put the bid of the Novares consortium (of which Airways is a partner) on hold, choosing instead to progress discussions with two other parties. Since then, a final preferred bidder has been chosen.

"I believe it is now appropriate to release the information," Mark Burton said. "I was unable to do so while the bidding process was still under way, as this would have resulted in considerable commercial prejudice to Airways and its partners.

"As a shareholding Minister, I have an obligation not to recklessly jeopardise the value of the substantial investments that the taxpayer has in SOEs.

"However, I also need to take account of the public interest in matters such as this, which is why I am releasing significantly more information than required to meet the requests made to me. This additional information covers events that have occurred since the dates the requests were made."

"I am releasing as much information as possible. I have withheld information only where I consider that this is clearly necessary and appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Official Information Act.

"The Government has made clear its commitment to retaining State Owned Enterprises as efficient, profitable businesses owned by the people of New Zealand," Mark Burton said. "SOE boards need to explore new opportunities, and this will on occasion involve offshore commercial ventures.

"Airways has developed a global partnership with Lockheed Martin, which has now seen them win a USA contract to supply a satellite-based air traffic control system.

"In winning this major contract, and by being among the final three contenders to run Britain's National Air Traffic Services, Airways has firmly established its international credibility in air traffic management," Mark Burton said.

"However, there is never any guarantee of success when involved in a tender process – that is a commercial reality. It is important that SOEs are not judged by the success of individual bids, but by their overall success in running efficient, profitable businesses.

"I have also made it clear to Airways, and all the other SOEs, that in pursuing investments, either in New Zealand or offshore, their primary focus must remain on the company's core domestic activities," Mark Burton said.

"As can be seen from the material released today, one particular issue has occupied a substantial amount of time and resources. There has been extensive correspondence on the matter. I sincerely hope that all the interested parties can now move on," Mark Burton said.

NB: The documents released under the OIA have been forwarded to those parties that requested them. Copies have also been provided to the Parliamentary Press Gallery.


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