MIDDAY UPDATE: Maori Council can appeal MRP ruling

Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand Maori Council has been granted leave to appeal a High Court ruling dismissing its application for a review of Cabinet decisions relating to the sale of up to 49 percent of MightyRiverPower.

In the Supreme Court today, Justices Sian Elias, John McGrath, William Young, Robert Chambers and Susan Glazebrook granted the council leave to appeal direct to the court rather than through the Court of Appeal. The appeal has been set down to be heard on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1

Earlier this month in the High Court, Justice Ronald Young found there were no legal grounds to review three crucial Cabinet decisions relating to the decision to sell down the state-owned power company because of outstanding tribal claims to water rights.

Going straight to the Supreme Court may speed up the process, improving the government's chances of meeting its June 30 deadline to float a minority shareholding of MRP on the NZX.

The Maori Council and other parties had sought judicial review to overturn Cabinet decision-making, an area well-tested in existing case law relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori proprietary rights. If successful, the action could have stopped the government's unpopular asset sales programme.

The asset sales are being sold politically as a key part of the government's capital expenditure programme. Without the proceeds of asset sales, investments in KiwiRail and irrigation schemes, among other priorities yet to be announced, either won't go ahead or will require unwelcome new government borrowing.

Argosy to raise $100M for Wellington building purchases

Argosy Property, whose shareholders agreed to corporatise the company last year after buying out the ANZ Bank-owned manager, wants to raise up to $100 million to pay for two buildings housing long-term government tenants in Wellington.

The new equity will come in two tranches, with $80 million raised from institutional and qualified investors and $20 million through a share purchase plan for existing shareholders, the Auckland-based property investor said in a statement. Shares in the placement to institutional investors will be priced at 88 cents apiece, a 6.3 percent discount to the current trading price of 94.5 cents.

The cash raised will go towards two buildings it has conditionally bought in Wellington – the former Ministry of Defence building on Stout St and NZ Post House on Waterloo Quay. The Stout St building will cost Argosy $33.2 million to acquire and a further $46.6 million to upgrade, while NZ Post House’s purchase price was $60 million with another $40 million flagged for upgrades.

“The capital raise together with existing debt facilities and our programme of non-core property sales will support the upgrade of these properties and potential further near-term accretive acquisitions,” chairman Mike Smith said. “The acquisitions will enhance Argosy’s portfolio and add significant value over time.”

Forsyth Barr, Credit Agricole settle with regulator over Credit Sails with $60M fund

Brokerage Forsyth Barr and firms associated with Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank have agreed to establish a $60 million settlement fund to compensate investors and pay $500,000 in costs over the disastrous NZX-traded Credit Sails notes.

The settlement is part of a deal under which the Commerce Commission concludes its probe into the now-worthless notes and agrees not to take legal action against Forsyth Barr, Credit Agricole, Credit Sail and Calyon Hong Kong. Under the settlement, eligible investors will receive about $850 for every $1,000 invested.

Under the settlement, the four companies haven’t admitted liability and “do not accept the commission’s views on matters arising out of its investigation,” according to a statement. The regulator says the Credit Sails were marketed and sold in a way that was likely to have breached the Fair Trading Act.

The index-linked notes were promoted by Calyon Hong Kong and the sale managed by Forsyth Barr in 2006, raising $91.5 million at $1 apiece from 3,000 investors on the promise of 8.5 percent interest and capital protection. The notes failed in 2008.

The notes were backed by a portfolio of corporate debt from 125 firms, and came unstuck as the global financial crisis knocked out portfolio members including Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, three banks in Iceland and Idearc, the publisher of America’s Yellow Pages.

The securities were “highly complex and unsuitable for the average investor,” a fact that ought to have been known to those involved in their promotion and sale, the commission said.



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