INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt Should Stop Dithering Over Air New Zealand

Published: Wed 30 May 2001 01:48 PM
ACT Commerce Spokesman Stephen Franks said today the Government should make it crystal clear that protecting the interests of New Zealanders will be its only consideration in deciding the fate of Air New Zealand.
“First, the Government should already have made it plain beyond all question that it will not pour taxpayer money through Air New Zealand into a wounded airline in Australia.
“Secondly, the Minister should tell Qantas not to waste its time. Competition is essential domestically. It won’t be there if Qantas controls Air New Zealand, while the travel industry will suffer from Qantas’ domination of our international routes.
“Thirdly, why is Mr Gosche involved at all? Has he got his own independent advice that Air New Zealand could not raise enough money here? Why would New Zealanders not invest enough in the airline to see it out of its troubles if the price was right? There is no law to stop a share issue at a price New Zealanders can pay, reflecting the risk. Singapore Airlines and overseas institutional investors could then match the amounts raised from New Zealanders, but paying their usual premium per share.
“Mr Gosche should absolutely not change the rules just to let 30 percent shareholder Brierley Investments escape from its investment. It is Brierley that has driven the decisions that have left Air New Zealand crouching under the circling predators.
“New Zealanders need to know that the real problem here is not Brierley’s wish to minimise its losses. Brierley seems to be asking Mr Gosche to let it sell control of Air New Zealand at a premium price to overseas investors or Singapore Airlines. Instead it should be left to get the price locals might pay, reflecting the pickle that Brierley’s stewardship created.
“Brierley bought its A shares with the benefit of treatment as a New Zealand company, buying from other New Zealanders, at a price lower than foreigners would pay.
“Mr Gosche must show that he fully understands the position, as well as importance of competition and the threat represented by Qantas.
“Stop dithering Mr Gosche. Tell Brierley to start talking to New Zealanders about taking back their shares in Air New Zealand. Under the international conventions New Zealanders must substantially own and effectively control Air New Zealand. Let the capital rebuilding start, so Air New Zealand can exit from Ansett if that is unavoidable. Don’t drag out the agony. And don’t let inexperience confuse the national interest with the interests of Brierley’s owners.”
ENDS

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