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NZ PM Key sees lower asset sale proceeds, no Solid Energy sale

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Monday he expected proceeds from the sale of state-owned assets would be near the low-end of the expected range of NZ$5 billion-NZ$7 billion ($4.13 billion-$5.78 billion) due in part because the troubled coal miner Solid Energy would not be coming to the market.

"Definitely it's going to be near the lower end than the higher end, but Solid Energy isn't going to come to the market," Key said on Television New Zealand, reiterating a similar forecast Finance Minister Bill English made last week.

The state-owned coal mining company has been shedding jobs and cutting production in response to the downturn in the international coal market and its high levels of debt.

Key also said the sales may also be affected by lingering uncertainty facing a major customer of Meridian Energy , the country's biggest hydro and wind power generator, as well the risk posed by proposals from the opposition Labour and Green parties to cap power prices if they win next year's election.

His comments came as the government began the sale of up to 49 percent shares of Meridian on Monday.

Meridian is the second partial asset sale by the government, which is selling minority stake in state-owned assets as part of its plans to return to a budget surplus. ($1 = 1.2104 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Wellington; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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