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PM’s Presser – "no work done" on asset sales

PM’s Presser – "no work done" on asset sales

Prime Minister John Key is “not ideologically opposed” to state asset sales but says his party has not discussed it as a policy position for next year’s election.

The Prime Minister retreated Monday from comments by Finance Minister Bill English last week that appeared to advocate partial sales of Kiwibank, KiwiRail and TVNZ.

English told a roomful of Christchurch businessmen at a post-Budget conference Friday the Government would “get to grips” with a stock-take of its assets.

The Government had made undertakings to the public not to sell its assets in its first term and would not move without a mandate.

But the fast-growing Kiwibank represented a risk to credit ratings and needed either a government guarantee or “an awful lot of capital.”

“So one option would be to go to the market and raise capital. So keep crown ownership, majority crown ownership and raise the rest of the capital from the market.”

“It seems to me, and I have checked this, that there is a strong demand among the mums and dads for a Kiwi investment model and if we put product into the market people would buy it,” he said.

TVNZ, NZPost and KiwiRail also represented poor investments, with taxpayers paying “the price of nostalgia”.

But the Prime Minister Monday said they were simply “kicking the tyres on the merits of that policy”.

Cabinet had not done any work on the issue and English had simply been responding to questions, Key said.

“I think he was simply making the point that one of the things we wanted to achieve in the Budget is greater levels of investment and savings.

“One of the issues that gets raised all the time with the finance minister is concerns New Zealanders have about finance companies, concerns that there’s not alternative investments, so you can understand the logic of that.”

“I don’t even think you can say we’ve been considering it,” he said.

Key said he expected to begin the stock-take before the end of the year but could not say when he would announce the party’s policy position.

But it would be “well in advance of the election”, he said.

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