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Preference for staff, iwi, locals in Napier Port share sale

By Gavin Evans

June 28 (BusinessDesk) - Napier Port staff wanting to participate in the firm’s partial listing have been guaranteed a minimum of $5,000 worth of stock.

The port, currently owned by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, will offer 45 percent of its shares to investors next month and plans to give staff, local residents and iwi preferential access.

The port has about 265 staff. Those working full-time at July 15 will be eligible to subscribe for shares under the priority offer, and can also seek an interest-free, limited recourse loan from the company to help fund that purchase.

Individual residents of Hawke’s Bay, and individual non-resident ratepayers, who opt to participate will also be guaranteed a minimum allocation of $2,000 of shares.

Chief executive Todd Dawson says the port is also talking to iwi, some of which have shown “quite a lot” of interest in recent months about learning more about the share sale and about the port itself.

“We are anticipating quite a bit of interest from those groups,” he told BusinessDesk.

Enabling high staff and public involvement was a key factor in the council’s preference last year to proceed with a listing of the port, as opposed to a long-term lease of the operation, or the formation of an operating partnership with an investor.

“Like the regional council, we believe strong local participation in the port IPO is desirable,” company chairman Alasdair MacLeod said in a statement. “The port’s purpose is to build a long-term successful business that supports a thriving region by connecting our customers and community to the world.”

Dawson said the firm has no clear assumptions on what the local take-up is likely to be.

Discussions with staff have only just begun. While the mood on the port is good, and staff have asked lots of good questions around the offer and the interest-free loan the company is offering, it is still “pretty early” in the process.

Napier Port is the fourth-largest container operation in the country and is seeing increasing log and cruise liner traffic. It expects to invest about $350 million during the next decade to cater for the region’s growing log, timber and apple exports.

The council can’t afford to meet that and the other obligations it faces in the region so is selling down its holding while retaining a controlling stake. In October, it estimated a 45 percent sale might bring in $181 million, leaving it $83 million to invest elsewhere after the IPO costs and after clearing almost $87 million of port-related debt.

Under the offer detailed today, the preferential offer to iwi is not limited to Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated. The iwi’s four taiwhenua groups – as individual entities - can also receive a preferential allocation, as can the other iwi trusts that appoint members to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee.

The port noted that the allocation to iwi groups will be made once overall demand in the IPO is known.

Pre-registration for shares for staff, residents and iwi closes on July 12, with the port aiming to publish a product disclosure statement July 15.

The priority offer will open on July 23 and close Aug. 5. Final pricing and share allocations are expected on Aug. 7 with the port expecting to have its shares trading on the NZX from Aug. 20.

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