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Is Air NZ Victim of More Market Manipulation?

Is Air NZ Victim of More Market Manipulation?

Tuesday 5 Mar 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Commerce

News that the Australian Opposition will move to allow Ansett workers to sue Air New Zealand - despite last year's $300 million settlement with the administrators - puts our airline into grave uncertainty, ACT Commerce Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Labour Ministers must explain the multiplying threats to Air New Zealand from across the Tasman and what they are doing about them. These new risks are not normal business risks. When an Australian Government agency - the equivalent to our Securities Commission - is promoting possible litigation against our Government's biggest investment last year, without the courtesy of any prior discussion with our Securities Commission, it is time for our Government to explain.

"It would suggest relations with Australia have reached an incredible low if the New Zealand Government has no idea of the grounds for new claims against the airline despite the settlement. The market needs to know the maximum amounts that Air New Zealand - and consequently the taxpayer - could lose.

"A stage could be reached soon where the ASX would have an excuse for suspending Air New Zealand's share quotation. Aussie securities market practices could hit our airline because of uncertainty knowingly created by the Australian regulators.

"Helen Clark's recommendation to Air New Zealand Shareholders to hang on to their shares could end up costing taxpayers even more money. On Friday we heard that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission may sue the airline in relation to the level of its financial disclosures prior to September 12 last year. Now it seems $750 million in employee claims will be added to investor claims.

"After Ms Clark recommended in late September that small investors `hang on' to their shares, politically she had made it impossible to let the company fail. Accordingly, the Government lost the option of simply picking up the business from the receivers who would have been appointed - leaving behind liabilities such as the one that may now be crawling out of the swamp in Australia.

"As a result the Government is now in so deep the country's taxpayers will bear the cost of anything the airline did in the run-up to the financial rescue.

"I have already asked Helen Clark and Commerce Minister Paul Swain a number of Parliamentary questions, including when our Government first found out about the possible ASIC action, what the grounds are for the action and what account our Government took of the possibility of action before injecting funds into Air NZ. But now the market and taxpayers need answers immediately," Stephen Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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