* Treasurer says sale wouldn’t be financially beneficial
* Critics said a sale would reduce corporate transparency (Adds context, opponent comment)
By Colin Packham
Dec 19 (Reuters) - Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison on Monday said the privatisation of a corporate registry would not be financially beneficial, shelving a plan which opponents argued would reduce transparency for millions of privately held companies.
The government last year said it planned to sell the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) registry, which analysts estimated to be worth up to A$4 billion ($2.9 billion).
The registry was widely seen as a valuable asset given it has low running costs but generates strong returns through customers paying for company searches, analysts said.
It attracted six bids earlier this year but Morrison said the sale would not raise enough money.
“Thorough evaluation of final private sector bids received showed that it would not deliver net financial benefit for the Commonwealth,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra after releasing the government’s mid-year budget review.
Morrison’s statement was welcomed by critics who had argued the sale would reduce the transparency of private companies, and allow a new owner to raise prices beyond the reach of many.
“They have made the right decision for the wrong reasons,” Nick Xenophon, an independent senator, told Reuters.
“The right reason would have been because of the disastrous impact for corporate oversight, not because they couldn’t get a high enough price.”
A sale would have been part of a privatisation program aimed at helping the government cut its budget deficit. Morrison on Monday said the deficit would exceed initial forecasts by about A$10 billion over the next four years. ($1 = 1.3704 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Christopher Cushing)