Trading halted in shares of Air New Zealand as government sells 20 percent stake in carrier

New Zealand's stock market has placed a trading halt on Air New Zealand shares after the government announced it will sell a 20 percent stake in the national carrier.

The NZX placed the halt Monday at Air New Zealand's request.

The government says it plans to reduce its stake in the carrier from 73 percent to 53 percent. At recent prices, the sale would be worth 363 million New Zealand dollars (US$302 million).

The announcement is part of a program of asset sales by New Zealand's center-right government. Already this year it has sold minority stakes in two state-owned power companies, raising NZ$3.6 billion.

The government says the sales will help it reduce public debt and enable it to spend more on needed infrastructure including schools, hospitals and roads.