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Asset sales: Key’s scorched earth tactics will backfire

Written By: - Date published: 9:14 am, October 25th, 2013 - 60 comments
Categories: election 2014, privatisation - Tags:

Granny supported little Johnny’s plan to go off to market and sell the family’s cash cow. But even she’s furious that what he’s come back with amounts to nothing more than a hill of beans. If Key and co couldn’t get a good price for Meridian, they shouldn’t have sold the bloody thing.

As Granny Herald notes, that they’re pushing ahead with the remaining sales regardless is all about ideology, and the knowledge that they’re going to lose the next election.

It’s the political equivalent of scorched earth tactics: if National can’t have the government any more, they’ll steal everything they can and leave as little as possible to the victors.

Of course, this is just going to make their slaughter at the next election even worse. The complete failure of their asset sales and their heedless, reckless determination to keep on going in the face of overwhelming public opposition, including the coming referendum, is going to rip a huge hole in their support. I reckon we’ll see a poll with Labour ahead of National within 6 months.

And then, as a strongly mandated Labour-Greens government pushes through NZ Power, the tory elite who are buying these electricity companies will get a shock as they find that cheaper power means their shares aren’t worth half what they think they are.

60 comments on “Asset sales: Key’s scorched earth tactics will backfire ”

  1. Ad 1

    From David Cunliffe when asked about whether Labour would buy back shares in sold companies:
    “All options are on the table”
    That’s all he would say – and all that’s appropriate at this point.

    A political question is whether this will turn into general unease as within the “Right Direction/Wrong Direction” polling. If unemployment stays around where it is or gets worse, it will be harder for them to win power back. But at the moment, National remnain perceived as the superior economic managers.

    Very surprised Parker isn’t attacking harder. Cosgrove is solid but not yet making the public feel emotion at a visceral and popular level. There’s still too much nationalist space being left for Winston to fill.

    Can Labour translate asset sale chaos into tilting public mood about economic management competence? It appears their to lose, but it’s been lost before as in 1996.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1

      Since the majority owner of Mighty River Power , has Ok ed the buyback of its shares, we can see that the ‘unthinkable’ option has occured much sooner.

      Look at what else has been ‘bought back’

      Air New Zealand

      Kiwirail

      Chorus ( in a round about way its getting a government mandated subsidy)

      I think the BNZ was a part sale, got into difficulties, required a bailout but was onsold immediately

      • Dumrse 1.1.1

        Who bought back Kiwi Rail? And whilst you’re at it how about expanding your Chorus buy back comment. Tell us about the subsidy?

        • richard 1.1.1.1

          Why don’t you look it up yourself?

          In this 2008 television news footage, Finance Minister Michael Cullen talks about the government’s buying back of the rail network. In 1993 New Zealand’s rail system (including the track network) and inter-island ferries were sold for $328 million. Renamed Tranz Rail, the organisation performed poorly, and in 2003 was bought out by the Melbourne-based Toll Holdings. In 2004 the government repurchased the rail infrastructure, by then very run-down, for $1, vesting it in a new state-owned enterprise, Ontrack. The government also spent $75.8 million buying a stake in the rail operator, and provided it with a $44-million cash injection. On 1 July 2008 the government spent $665 million buying Toll’s rail and ferry operations outright, renaming the company KiwiRail.

          http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/video/32685/buying-back-kiwirail

    • dave 1.2

      we can not announce any buy back or these torys will think they have a bailout point NO far better to bring in power nz force the power companies to average there costs at which point the shares will be worth around a $1.35 mrp .then buy them back. but no bailout for these wankers !

    • poem 1.3

      “National remnain perceived as the superior economic managers”

      What gives you that idea Ad? the reality of national’s unsustainable line of policy shows national up as abject failures and the majority of kiwis now see that.

    • rangelife 1.4

      “National remain perceived as the superior economic managers”

      hmmmmm I’d say there’s an overwhelming recognition that National’s economic management is based on maintaining low-wages for the majority, with the management/asset owning classes profiteering nicely. The crony capitalism charges are beginning to resonate more & more. And the assets sales debacle is an own goal for this government in so many ways …

  2. Lanthanide 2

    You know, there’s no reason the government can’t force the Superannuation Fund to buy the shares back.

    My BF reckons that Cullen should have shifted ownership of these SoEs into the superfund at the time it was started, instead of putting cash in for the first few years.

    • Pete 2.1

      It’s better public policy to allow the fund managers of the Super Fund and ACC to make the most prudent investment decisions they can rather than raid these funds for money under the figleaf of an SOE transfer.

      • Lanthanide 2.1.1

        Yeah, it’s not such a good position now. But at the creation of the fund, it would have been pretty easy to justify moving these strategic, long-term assets with good dividend returns into the fund. Then National wouldn’t have had any chance to sell them, for risk of looking like they were plundering the pension.

        A government could still move the remaining 51% stake in.

        • Matthew Hooton 2.1.1.1

          But the purpose of the Cullen Fund is to one day sell down all its assets to help pay for superannuation, so the shares in the companies would eventually go back on the share market, which I don’t think is what you would support long term.

          • dv 2.1.1.1.1

            But doesnt the Cullen fund get income from its investments?
            If it is big enough then a selldown won’t be needed will it.

          • Tat Loo 2.1.1.1.2

            which I don’t think is what you would support long term.

            A sell down 40-50 years down the track is no problem.

            • Matthew Hooton 2.1.1.1.2.1

              I thought the selldown would be more like around 20 years from now – certainly not 50 years; the baby boomers will all be well dead by then.

              • Tat Loo

                Hey Matthew. Cool icon.

                Why would you sell down high earning assets?

                Anyhows Stephen Joyce said that the retirement age could stay at 65 through to 2060 no problem. And I trust him on that.

          • felix 2.1.1.1.3

            “But the purpose of the Cullen Fund is to one day sell down all its assets”

            Cough (bullshit) cough.

            • greywarbler 2.1.1.1.3.1

              felix
              I thought that it was to particularly provide for a projected demographic bulge
              not far off so that the shock to the economy wouldn’t be great. It was to be a smoothing out of the spike of oldies’ super and ageing costs.

              That’s how I remember it and too, does Hooters.

          • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1.4

            Pretty simple, Hoots.

            When the fund was set up, the power companies should have had nominal ownership transferred to the fund.

            The dividends would be paid to the fund. The NZ Government would then have topped up the fund by $1B – dividends each year, instead of $1B.

            At the time the fund is wound up, nominal ownership is simply transferred back to the government. No need to sells shares anywhere.

            This has two benefits:
            1. National would have looked like they were plundering the pension fund if they sold the assets.
            2. National made the political decision to stop contributing money to the fund, but if it owned the power companies then at least the dividend stream would still be available for re-investment, again unless National wanted to look like they were plundering the pension.

            • Tat Loo 2.1.1.1.4.1

              Bloody impressive, Lanth.

            • RedBaronCV 2.1.1.1.4.2

              And when Labour are back in with a 51% shareholding they can rearrange the actual power producing assets between the companies at the cheapest prices they can manage leaving the partly privatised ones with zip or coal fired plants, and company that is wholly owed with the dams etc.
              Then bring in controls on non renewable energy and drop the bottom out of the partly privatised coys. Go Lanth

          • tricledrown 2.1.1.1.5

            MH logically we could have a no tax economy if we had enough investments but national are purely ideologically driven.
            Tis is all about looking after those who are already well off and keeping those who aren’t well off poor and disenfranchised grovelling to to likes of you and your ilk for the crumbs!
            This is not the kiwi way ,kiwis like sharing and caring.
            Nactional is about making Kiwis selfish snobby and narcissistic like yourself Hooten!

      • Tat Loo 2.1.2

        it’s only an accounting fiction. No actual cash need be transferred out of those funds in order for the SOE assets to go in.

  3. phil 3

    xox
    Why don’t we all change power companies to support the Government owned one? Why don’t we all join Kiwibank? All the profits would stay in NZ and not go to Australia?

  4. Jokerman 4

    raise the jolly roger.

  5. BM 5

    I didn’t have an issue with partial assets sales.

    I think the main reason they haven’t been as successful as hoped is that people just don’t think the share market is particularly sexy.
    Labour and the Greens undermining them didn’t help either.

    You don’t see big gains happen in the share market or hear of people making their fortune compared to property, so people think investing in stocks is a waste of time.

    Lack of leverage and volatility is a big negative against investing in NZ stocks.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 5.1

      You don’t have an issue with partial asset sales, and lack of leverage and volatility is a big negative against investing in NZ stocks.

      That seems perfectly clear. No, wait…

      • BM 5.1.1

        No, I don’t have an issue with the idea of selling state “assets”,I don’t think they’re some amazing jewel in New Zealands crown.

        What I was trying to point out was that one of the reason the take up was so poor was because of other factors such as the way stocks are perceived in NZ.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 5.1.1.1

          What I was trying to point out was that I doubt very much you would have sold shares in these companies if you owned them yourself, given the historical dividend performance and the local market volatility etc.

          To put it another way, there are inherent contradictions between your ideology and your ethics.

          • BM 5.1.1.1.1

            I would have sold them some where else.

            It’s a bit like selling your wares in Gore, you’re not going to get as good a price as you would if you sold them in Auckland.

            • Rogue Trooper 5.1.1.1.1.1

              likely to experience some dampness in the smalls

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 5.1.1.1.1.2

              That actually makes a kind of sense: bring capital into the country by floating in one of the offshore exchanges. Assuming the capital raised was worth more than the existing dividend flow (I’m picking there’s some sort of way to calculate that) and assuming you reinvested the capital.

              Kind of a hard sell politically, though. Good luck.

              • McFlock

                if the capital raised exceeded the dividend flow, they wouldn’t buy it anywhere.

                New owners expect to get more money out than they put in.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1

      Yes, little Bretty.

      • Brett Dale 6.1.1

        Knucklehead:

        What are the ages of the people who write these pieces?

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1.1.1

          How old do you have to be to use the diminutive as a gesture of ridicule or contempt?

          Is the analogy of Granny (she’s 150 this year) and little Johnny (100 years her junior) apt?

          Is your affected disapproval of any consequence?

  6. Jokerman 7

    20:21 An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.
    A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge but the simple keep going and suffer for it. 22:3

  7. Tracey 8

    Yes brett how old they are is more importAnt than what they write. How many shares did you sign up for in meridian?

    • Tracy:

      Does the op think calling Prime Minister, John Key, “little johnny” is funny or clever or making a great satirical point?

      Its almost as cliche as David Cunliffe, saying. Labour cares about the little New Zealander and not the Wall street bankers”

      • Sable 8.1.1

        More to do with the fact Keys is small minded, mean spirited, selfish. He chooses to make himself a “little” man.

    • Tracey:

      I stopped buying shares in NZ companies after the former labour government decided who i could sell my shares too.

  8. Tracey 9

    Jokerman

    to be is to do satre
    to do is to be descartes
    do be do be do sanatra

  9. greywarbler 10

    tracey
    😆

  10. Sable 11

    Even the Tory birdcage liner has turned against the little Emperor. Of course rats always flee from a sinking ship….

    • Naturesong 11.1

      Not completely. After recognising that the sales are driven by ideology the editorial finishes with:

      It also does little to inspire confidence in the part-float of the final power company, Genesis Energy. The Government, however, has no choice but to push ahead. It would make no sense to pause now, leaving Genesis with a different ownership structure.

      The reasoning appears to be “Hey, in the against all economic sense and overwhelming public opposition we’ve sold two public utilities, and fucked up the selling of those utilities therefore we must continue … ” to fuck the rest up?

  11. newsense 12

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/9327829/Len-Brown-would-go-if-he-was-CEO-say-lawyers

    can’t wait for these can’ts to do a feature on what would happen to CEO who flogged off the company’s revenue stream for several billion less than what they had budgeted for. Or stopped investement in a fund that returned substantial benefits. Or lost production entirely to an industry through lack of investment.

  12. newsense 13

    And while I’m getting pissy with journalists we had this great headline from the Herald’s Business editor:

    Liam Dann: Cunliffe’s Labour smart to play dumb

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/liam-dann/news/article.cfm?a_id=106&objectid=11139587

    “A lot of these issues are complex and Labour seems happy to grab headlines with half-baked ideas that don’t bear serious scrutiny”

    Still waiting to see how smart he thinks the Meridian float is…That’s not all a half-baked idea…

    • QoT 13.1

      You have to have a laugh at our media suddenly giving a crap about the complex economic details of policy when it’s Labour announcing them. Not a whisper about John Key’s ever-changing rationale for asset sales – it’s to reduce debt! It’ll pay for schools! It’ll pay for schools and reduce debt!

  13. Lloyd 14

    You don’t sell what you can’t afford to live without. Can New Zealand afford to live without these electricity companies?

  14. tricledrown 15

    Blind monetarist people are not as silly as you make out except those like your self who believe your own shallow propaganda!
    Like Meridian selling power at a $476 million discount to Tiwae point just to help National get the sale through before the next election.
    $30 million bribe to tiwae on top of that plus a $60 million bribe for the new share buyers!
    $30 million to Goldman Sachs (Robber Barron’s) $30 million in advertising.
    $200 to $300 million in lost dividends.
    It doesn’t make economic sense!
    That”s ideology over economic sense and long term planning!

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