The NZ Superannuation Fund (NZS) has declined a request to release information on potential moves to sell its stake in Kiwi Group Holdings as the ownership lockdown period nears an end.
In response to an Official Information Act (OIA) query lobbed by National Party MP, Mark Mitchell, the NZS rejected the fishing expedition on commercial sensitivity grounds.
Mitchell, MP for Whangaparaoa – the region popular for Auckland retirees, weekenders and boating enthusiasts – was seeking all materials on any NZS plans “relating to the sale or not” of its 25 per cent equity in Kiwi Group held through the NZSF Tui Investments vehicle.
Kiwi Group is the ultimate holding company that houses both Kiwibank and Kiwi Wealth.
NZS, along with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) fund, acquired the stake in Kiwi Group in October 2016. ACC took a 22 per cent share with the remainder held by original full owner, NZ Post, and the government directly.
“The governing documents restrict shareholders from selling outside the existing circle of owners for a period of 5 years,” NZS chief investment officer, Stephen Gilmore, says in the OIA reply. “After that, the Government has the first option to buy the shares back before they are offered to any third parties.”
Gilmore says any information regarding a possible sale of Kiwi Group “or indeed any Fund investment” would be “highly commercially sensitive and confidential”.
Stating the obvious, letter says pre-releasing confidential information about investment intentions could distort any sales process – if there was one.
“On that basis… we can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non existence of the information requested,” Gilmore says in the letter.
NZS has been touted in media reports as a potential bidder – along with other government entities – for the Westpac NZ assets, putting a Kiwibank merger on the radar. Westpac announced a ‘review’ of its NZ business in March the could include a demerger from the Australian parent, trade sale or NZ market listing.
As at publication date, Mitchell had yet to respond to an Investment News NZ query re the motivation for the OIA request.