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Why the Meridian sale will go ahead regardless of cost

Written By: - Date published: 7:26 am, May 27th, 2013 - 57 comments
Categories: Economy - Tags:

When even the notoriously right-wing NZ Herald Editorial is pleading for Meridian not to be sold (just now), you know that the government’s asset sell-down is in trouble.

Add to that the fact that Mighty River Power shares are languishing three cents below their float rate and that a Meridian float is likely to knock them down further.

And then add the fact that the conflicts of interest involved in the sale of that generator are gathering negative attention from the most establishment corners, and John Key’s determination to continue seems even more bloody minded.

But that assumes that getting the best dollar possible is the plan here. It’s not. The planned sale of Meridian is about making sure this transfer of public wealth to private hands is as irreversible as possible.

Meridian’s huge value is its strategic place in the electricity system – like Mighty River it provides cheap low-carbon peaking power that can’t easily be replaced without resorting to costly to run fossil fuel plants (and suddenly it’s not low-carbon anymore).

It would be very hard to put the electricity system back together with both Mighty and Meridian sold down as both have generation that is very hard to replace. Genesis, on the other hand, has mostly fossil plants that are far more easily duplicated.

All of which means the government needs to get Meridian on the block asap if it’s to poison the well for reversal of its privatisation policy. Which is what it’s doing. And bugger the cost to taxpayers (both present and future), “mum and dad” investors, and consumers.

Of course NZ Power short-circuits this situation by not requiring reintegration of the electricity system to bring generators in line. But National is betting that large multinational shareholders will have much more leverage in negotiations with a future Labour/Greens government if they own the most strategically important generating capacity. Which is why, despite the pleadings of the Herald, the Meridian sale won’t be put on hold.

57 comments on “Why the Meridian sale will go ahead regardless of cost”

  1. Tigger 1

    But Granny is still saying sell, just a different asset (AirNZ). Their masters must want some planes for their toy collection.

  2. Tom Gould 2

    Enormous efforts went into getting the MRP offer across the line, ranging from overt incentives and saturation advertising to less overt pressure on ‘mates’ to calls on old fashioned political loyalty. These tactics are unlikely to work a second time. The smart end of town knows these ‘investments’ are dogs and will stay away from Meridian too. Key has painted himself into a corner, yet again. The Herald is simply being a helpful friend.

    • IrishBill 2.1

      Nah. these will be scooped up by large overseas investors. If, say, a large foreign government investor accumulates a substantial chunk of both Mighty and Meridian then implementing NZ Power will be more politically and financially costly for a future government.

      That’s what John Key and his government are counting on. It’s a cynical play from a government whose main goal is to divest government of economic power and keep that way.

  3. tc 3

    Carry on shonkey, another albatross to adorn your already stinky plumage with dead rats like kim.com, warner bros, conservation mining, tranzrail shares…..quite the collection.

  4. For similar reasons I suspect they will let Solid Energy go to the wall, just so that it can be divested.

    • GregJ 4.1

      Yep – it is interesting to see the rise of Bathurst Resources and its positioning to scoop up more NZ coal resources – no profits as yet but cash rich and attempting to re-incorporate as a “New Zealand” Company (albeit with mainly overseas owners). Must have been some fascinating conversations had when Key opened Bathurst’s NZ operations office in Wellington in March 2012.

  5. Mr Interest 5

    http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/node/457

    Myth #1: Privatization saves money.
    However: Privatization often raises costs for the public and governments.

    Myth #2: Private companies do a better job than the public sector.
    However: Many examples show declines in service quality under private contractors.

    Myth #3: Privatization allows governmental entities to better anticipate and control budgetary costs.
    However: Cost estimates are extremely unreliable and privatization can cause result in unforeseen budgetary consequences.

    Myth #4: Privatization allows governmental entities more administrative flexibility.
    However: Privatization requires substantial administrative resources for monitoring and oversight.

    Myth #5: The public still maintains control over a privatized asset or service and the government retains the ultimate ability to make related public policy decisions.
    However: Privatization can bind the hands of policymakers for years, allowing private companies significant control of a privatized asset or service and the ability to dictate important policy decisions.

    Myth #6: If anything goes wrong, the government can easily fire the contractor or adjust the contract.
    However: Reversing privatization involves huge costs and service interruptions.

    Myth #7: Companies are chosen for privatization contracts on the merits, not based on political or financial connections.
    However: Government for profit opens doors to unscrupulous behavior by politicians and businesses.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      +1

      Exactly and I do wish more people would realise that. Privatisation costs us all more just so that a few people can be richer and have more power over us.

    • Peter 5.2

      Myth: Private firms will take full responsibility for all government functions
      However, they only want the profitable bits and will off-load the rest back to the state.

    • ghostrider888 5.3

      Yep

    • Roy 5.4

      Nice summary.

  6. Winston Smith 6

    Because its a better plan then the Greens can come up with (which the polls seem to indicate…)

    • Suitably Clueless 6.1

      Ha! Do you really believe that? Is that the mantra you use to get your brain to quiet down so you can sleep at night? ‘The polls say that everything is ok, it’s not an attempt at privatisation by stealth, it is just good fiscal management’ it just really doesn’t roll off the tongue like counting sheep does. The referendum will go to parliament, but unfortunately it is too late for MRP, all your shilling would have been worth if had you been one of the anointed 2% that now own a large share of one of our utilities. Now clean up the spittle, go for a walk and see what is happening to your country with these munted US/UK austerity policies. I note there is no such thing as austerity at the top of the pile, just numpties who don’t care about society, their fellow species, the environment, their next generation, and have absolutely no appreciation of history and how it can teach us lessons.

      Sorry for the spiel and rant, but the lack of intellectual vigour and critical thinking in most of your statements made me flame you like this. You seem an intelligent chap, use it, don’t just parrot Patrick Gower’s crap on the rest of us.

      • ghostrider888 6.1.1

        Like

      • Winston Smith 6.1.2

        I don’t have a large share (at least not what I consider a large share) but I have some shares and will be buying some meridian shares

        and yeah the people are now beginning to wake up to the reality of a green-led governemnt

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1.2.1

          Yes, if current polls are correct, it’ll be a reality, and they’ll be running the economy, which they’ve done a better job of since 6th December 1935. Always lower public debt, always more productive.

          Since a rising tide lifts all boats, this will even be good news for maggots like you.

          • Winston Smith 6.1.2.1.1

            the greens have done a better job since 1935?

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1.2.1.1.1

              Yes, you must be right, because they’ll be the only party in government, won’t they?

              Wake me up when you can muster a reality-based argument.

              PS: On second thoughts, who wants to sleep forever?

        • Steve Withers 6.1.2.2

          Winston: I find almost everyone who thinks a Green government would be bad doesn’t know very much about the Greens. Honestly…..most people I have spoken to who say the Greens are bad aren’t able to accurately describe even one policy in support their belief. I call it a “belief” because without anything verifiably correct to support their view, their view can’t be anything but a faith statement.

          • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.2.1

            But the Greens are tree hugging commies and Russel Norman is an economy destroying witch man

      • paul andersen 6.1.3

        good post ,agree completley,

    • Okay, you determine this from a single poll, the year before election year? That is like claiming Don Brash would win the election, what the media spin usually isn’t the reality in election year. Better to have the Greens and Labour, than Business Roundtable Inc, run by foreign corporations, for foreign corporations.

  7. Suitably Clueless 7

    Ha! Key thinks that his welfare ‘reforms’ will be one of his governments legacies. Can’t argue with that at all.

  8. KJT 8

    Come on. Do you really think that National have New Zealander’s best interests at heart with their privatisations.’

    The fact that they went of the deep end over New Zealand power shows the real motives.

    The reasons for the privatisations is to secure funding for the party from those who expect to make a killing from the power companies, add to Key’s million dollar retirement fund in Hawaii, and secure a bit of cash for the general account, so that National can paper over the loses from their bumbling incompetence and do a bit of pump priming before the election.

    They have no problem with fire sale prices. It just means their cronies can make more money of them later.

    • Winston Smith 8.1

      “add to Key’s million dollar retirement fund in Hawaii”

      – Yeah good thing no other politician has a retirement fund in the USA…

  9. Mr Interest 9

    Quotes from

    Silent Theft – The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth
    By David Bollier

    http://www.community-wealth.org/content/silent-theft-private-plunder-our-common-wealth

    What is the Commons?

    The American commons include tangible assets such as public forests and minerals, intangible wealth such as copyrights and patents, critical infrastructure such as the Internet and government research, and cultural resources such as the broadcast airwaves and public spaces.

    We, as citizens, own these commons. They include resources that we have paid for as taxpayers, and resources that we have inherited from previous generations. They are not just an inventory of marketable assets, but social institutions and cultural traditions that define us as Americans and enliven us as human beings. Public education. Community institutions. Democratic values. Wildlife and national forests. Public spaces in cities and communications media.

    Astonishingly, Americans are losing the right to control dozens of such commons that they own. While business and technology tend to be the forces animating this silent theft, as we shall see, our government is complicit in not adequately protecting the commons on our behalf. When it is not being seduced by what has been called the legalized bribery of campaign contributions, politicians may gamely try to defend our common assets, and occasionally succeed. ………

    A reckoning of what belongs to the American people is a first step to recovering control of common assets and using them either to generate new revenues for public purposes or to protect them from market exploitation. At a time when the public purse is raided for all manner of “corporate welfare,” an analysis based on the “common wealth” offers some powerful ways to leverage assets that we the American people already own.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    It would be very hard to put the electricity system back together with both Mighty and Meridian sold down as both have generation that is very hard to replace.

    Nope, it would be easy – re-nationalisation without compensation.

    • SpaceMonkey 10.1

      Throw the TPPA in with that and it might be a different story.

    • Easy to do too, since NACTs have created the state dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, all we need is to vote in a workers government that repeals all this autocratic asset stripping going back 30 years and return the assets to the public domain where each shareholder is a registered voter. While we are at it we would nationalise the land and honour the Treaty retrospectively. We could compensate for loss of private assets on a case by case base subject to a means test. Corporates that have backed the NACT regime would have all their assets expropriated. Mums and dads left destitute by their greed would be granted a student allowance in liberal arts. Self-employed would be given the option of staying self-employed. Capital flights would be free and booked in advance. Any suits with suits would be denied entry and deported to Guantanamo. Any visits by Rimpac allies would be blockaded at the harbour mouths. Drones would be re-directed by hackers back to their US bases. We would rename our major cities after our mythic heroes and not Pommie toffs or false idols. In that way our art, language and culture would mimic our economic liberation. Easy really.

  11. vto 11

    In the not too distant future when building a house we will all wander down to the local hardware shop and pick a power unit off the shelf. We will then head home and screw it onto the roof and thereafter be happily provided all our power by wind and sun etc and never need a leaching power company again.

  12. coge 12

    If you want a sustainable green eco friendly investment, that actually produces an ongoing profit. Look no further than Meridian.

    • Suitably Clueless 12.1

      coge, we invested in these assets over a generation ago, why should the few invest in these assets at the detriment of everyone, and dilute their ownership in this country of ours? I don’t have $8000 spare and if I did, I would have a bajillion other uses for that money, so should, funnily enough 98% of the rest of us kiwis. Invest in an export related company or tourism, they can be sustainable.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.2

      Profit is the dead weight loss that economists have been warning us about for centuries. They just have failed to realise it and placed the blame on taxes instead.

      • prism 12.2.1

        I understand that taxes were reviled because they were imposed to raise money by the Leader to spend on wars that would both conserve and increase his powerful position. Of course taxes are used for building strong communities with healthy businesses these days. Whoops..I think I had a dream….

        • kiwicommie 12.2.1.1

          The taxes these days are used for a war on the poor and unemployed, and government hand outs for National’s business mates. ;)

          • Winston Smith 12.2.1.1.1

            The taxes these days are used for a war on the rich and self-employed, and government hand outs for the Greens’s benes mates.

            – Probably happen after the 2017 election

            • Draco T Bastard 12.2.1.1.1.1

              Small businesses have always done better under left governments.

            • prism 12.2.1.1.1.2

              Have you had a definite word about that W Smith? That would be great for those struggling whether Green or not. And many of them are self employed – no-one will give them a job so they have to do everything themselves for no better wages than a worker.

            • kiwicommie 12.2.1.1.1.3

              If by ‘rich’ you mean foreign owned corporate monopolies, and by ‘self-employed’ currency speculators – then sure.

  13. BLiP 13

    Heh! Speaking of The New Zealand Fox News Herald, it appears to be winding up an even more pro National Ltd™ agenda, just going by today’s print version. The apparent target market appears to be women. The front page banner promotes a classic celebrity tear-jerker cancer story which, needless to say, refers readers to its sister publication, TheWoman’s Weekly. Half of Page 3, a tabloid’s prime spot, is taken up with a full colour shot of a dancing whale seen off an Australian coast line. Scattered amongst the rest of the crime/All Blacks/tech-savy children/fluke health checks saving lives, are two main stories announcing that National Ltd™ will be announcing a “think about the children” and “think about the mums” policies. Only National Ltd™ can get ink when announcing that it is going to announce stuff. The “think of the mums” announcement of an upcoming announcement is subsequently featured in a double-spread further in. No mention of the fact, of course, that the heralded women’s health iniative is most likely going to be a PPP. Classic.

    Meanwhile, the political polls which came out over the weekend merit a single paragraph sideline sub-story. At least the selection of Marama Davidson gets a brief mention, even if its just a paragraph.

    (NOTE TO SELF: Get help with addiction to the cryptic and cancel subscription.)

    • ghostrider888 13.1

      Read Online; faster and more discretion possible.

      One day, a week or so a go, thought I’d catch up on the ‘lines’ of the local newspaper; took about 15 minutes to parse A Week Of It, Geez.

    • unicus 13.2

      Isnt it time that the real culprits for the destruction of what once passed as the 4th estate in this country were exposed to public scrutiny – the individuals on the Boards of Directors of Fairfax APN and the rest of the surrogate National Party propaganda machine monopolising public discourse . Exactly who are the people deciding the political direction of our country through their positions as media executives and directors . What are the financial and political interests of these people and how suitable are their characters to behave as the gate keepers of public information .

      Its time to name and shame these despicable charlatans

      • BLiP 13.2.1

        Its us – the consumers – we are the despicable charlatans for putting up with it.

  14. Mr Interest 14

    Hummmmmm, I wonder if Meridian sale has got anything to do with this:

    Smelter NZ’s Biggest Bludger

    – Murray Horton

    Every time that Rio Tinto, the gargantuan mining and processing transnational which owns 80% of the Bluff smelter, feels that its charmed existence in New Zealand is going to become less cushy, it threatens to pull the plug, close the smelter and walk away. Last time it did so (in 2008) was because of the Labour government’s proposed emissions trading scheme. This time it is trying it on as a tactic to try to pressure Meridian over its power price contract, which has already been negotiated and is due to take effect in January 2013. It has succeeded in whipping up a storm of uncertainty among its workers, the union representing some of them, the Southland public and their local body politicians

    (the above taken from http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/31/04.html )

  15. ghostrider888 15

    Postpone.
    Legislate to separate the retail and investment sections of banks and brokers again

  16. Ennui 16

    Now if I was Rio Tinto I might just buy a controlling interest in the power sector……

    • ghostrider888 16.1

      to make Aluminium at a loss

      • prism 16.1.1

        Ghost888
        Now that’s an interesting tax concept, make a profit on electricity shares and pay high price for electricity giving a good profit which can be transferred to a low tax or no tax entity, have the aluminium plant make a loss because of the high price of electricity which then offsets other profits somewhere, perhaps in NZ. And then claim for a tax loss and perhaps get a refund too.

        I think I put a snippet from the Ankh-Morpork city books on the site a while ago. Very amusing that the accountants guild did not pay any tax, and then claimed a tax refund of a large amount anyway. Terry you’re the bright spark that lights the way.

  17. veutoviper 17

    “Add to that the fact that Mighty River Power shares are languishing three cents below their float rate”

    The MRP shares opened at $2.47 this morning, held at that for the morning, dropped to $2.44 at midday, then to $2.42 – and as at 2.30pm are now at $2.38 after reaching a low of $2.36.

    Early days but ….

  18. Adrian 18

    If you want to strike a blow for the left ( a symbolic one at least ) lets all put in an offer with a sharebroker for MRP for say $1. 75 a share. If enough people do it it becomes the new price. Love to see Key squirm if anybody has the guts to interview him. P.s, if it gets close you can just cancel the offer if you don’t want to buy.

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