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Iwi Wants More Info On Horizon Takeover

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Dave Williams of NZPA

Wellington, Feb 10 NZPA - The Bay of Plenty iwi that blocked the Eastern Bay Energy Trust's bid to take over the local lines company says it is not opposed to the idea, but wants to know where the money is coming from.

The trust, which already owns 77.3 percent of Horizon Energy Distribution, has shelved its plans to buy the remainder of the NZX-listed company while it seeks legal clarification on whether its trust deed actually allows to buy more.

Last Friday, Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi Trust sought an interim injunction to stop the counting of votes in a poll of Horizon consumers -- needed before the takeover could proceed.

That sparked the trust's investigation into its own deed, and clarification over the part which says it can have a base holding of 25 percent but if it wants to buy more shares it has to poll more than 50 percent support from beneficiaries.

It has made an application to the High Court to have the matter sorted out, which means a decision could be months away.

Trust chairman David Bulley said delay was frustrating. The iwi's actions had "come out of the blue" and he did not know why it was blocking the process, he said.

But Ngati Rangitihi Trust chairman Graham Pryor said the iwi, based in Matata, northeast of Whakatane and with "several thousand members", was forced to seek the injunction because the ballot paper was issued with inadequate information and with very little time to respond.

Mr Pryor said it was obvious the trust would have to borrow around $20 million to buy the shares but the trust did not provide information such as a financial analysis, whether the energy company had sought or taken any advice on the takeover, or what the financial impacts of the purchase would be.

"I thought it was an incredibly short time frame for a local community trust to be investing $22m for the beneficiaries to answer."

The result of the poll, which will not be publicised, was now a "nullity" as by the time the deed issue was sorted out, which could take months, it would not be valid, he said.

He was not opposed to the trust conducting another poll.

"If they have the power to do that and they do it properly.

"Unless their full disclosure shows that it's a really bad idea," he said. "If it's okay and it's a good strategy we will have no problems with voting."

Mr Pryor commended the trust for listening to the iwi.

"I think they were being quite arrogant in some ways but they did listen and withdrew. I think that was the best result for everybody in this, because they will come back to the beneficiaries with full disclosure and proposals."

While not specifically opposed to the trust owning 100 percent of Horizon, Mr Pryor questioned why it need to own that much when it already had a controlling 77 percent stake.

NZPA WGT dw nb


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