Canadian Pension Fund’s asset-strip plan

Written By: - Date published: 1:15 pm, March 12th, 2008 - 36 comments
Categories: assets - Tags:

nz150The Canadian Pension Fund is planning to asset-strip Auckland Airport.

Once they have control they would demand ‘hyper-dividends’ three times the size of the Airports’ normal dividends. Where would the money have come from? From funds the airport would otherwise have spent on maintaining and upgrading its assets. The Fund would walk away with a pile of money from our economy; the airport would be left with crumbling, outdated assets.

Fortunately, the Fund’s bid is not being accepted by shareholders. The Fund needs 39.2% of shares for its bid to succeed. As of Tuesday, only 26.22% have accepted the offer. The bid closes tomorrow.

Predictions that shareholders would accept the offer to spite the Government after it intervened to tighten the law protecting strategic assets from foreign control last week have been proven wrong. Ordinary kiwi shareholders along with the Manukau and Auckland city councils (the two biggest shareholders) do not want our prime assets falling under foreign control and are happy with the good dividends the Airport has returned.

The revelation that even the supposedly benign Canadian Pension Fund was looking to asset-strip completely justifies strengthening the Government’ power to block foreign control of strategic assets. Fortunately, the Government won’t be required to step in this time because New Zealand shareholders are saying ‘no’ themselves.

36 comments on “Canadian Pension Fund’s asset-strip plan ”

  1. the sprout 1

    the extraordinary lengths the CPF are going to in order to purchase AIA makes me think they really really want it, which makes me think it must be really really worth having.
    which makes me think why sell it?

  2. Santi 2

    Wow! Steve Pierson, you must be a Beehive insider to come up with such astounding facts on the Canadian bid and its horrible consequences for our country.

    Are you Michael Cullen (Professor of History) in drag?

  3. Steve Pierson 3

    santi. follow the link, it’s that rabid commie Fran O’Sullivan who outlines the dividend plans the CPF has.

    sprout. I agree, you always have to wonder, if someone wants to buy something from me so bad, do i really want to sell?

  4. insider 4

    Sorry, where are these examples of asset stripping you are concerned about? Nothing in the linked article.

  5. andy 5


    Or maybe we are selling it too cheap! they will also lever up the debt (extract cash) and demand higher dividends, look where that got Centro in Aussie and all the leveraged buyouts in the US which are soon to fall over.

  6. Patrick 6

    So true, not only is it a valuable strategic asset, but it’s also wildly profitable. I don’t see why we’d want to see those profits going offshore. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  7. sdm 7

    Heh – sold my shares on Monday. That should push the figure a bit closer

  8. Steve Pierson 8

    insider. O’sullivan on page 1 talks about ‘hyper-dividends’, on page three she says they would bethree times the normal dividend size and ministers are concerned about the economic effects of that… a quick glance at the auckland airport returns shows they would need to increase profits to do that, and that would require cost cutting – since the CPF isn’t magically going to double revenue.

  9. insider 9


    People may want to buy assets for relatively benign reasons. They might want balance in their exposure, they might want to concentrate a portfolio, they might see an opportunity that no-one else does and are better placed to exploit it, they may just want to try something new and see a risk advantage buying exisiting assets rather than starting from scratch.

    Not everyone is out to rip you off so you can put away the paranoia pills.

    Has anyone considered that this strategic asset might be underperforming and can do a lot better with a bit of help?

  10. Steve Pierson 10

    sdm. unless you had quarter of a billion shares, they’re still well short.

  11. insider 11


    re 1.53pm post – the mayor of Manukau was on the radio last night saying the airport had large amounts of unused land whcih could generate a return and they are building a second runway. Sounds like there are significant revenue opportunities from that.

    He also said they;d need more capital.

  12. Steve Pierson 12

    insider. how would the CPF owning part of the company and demanding dividends three times what they are now increase the capital the airport has available for a second runway? remember this is a transfer of wealth between shareholders, not an injection of capital into the airport company.

    If anything an asset stripping owner is going to prevent the airport having enough capital to build a second runway… which is the point of the post.

  13. insider 13


    Capital is required in the future not now, so the share transfer would not achieve that and nor did I suggest it would, however it does bring on a major potential source of future capital.

    The question more for me is if the Canucks can generate better returns why can’t the current lot and will they endeavour to do same if the bid is unsuccessful?

  14. andy 14


    They may not be out to ‘rip’ anyone off but any good manager will maximise returns. They would be remiss if they did not. Some times to maximise returns companies delay things like hiring or capital works. Its not begnin it business, begnin sheesh, I got a bridge to sell you son…

  15. andy 15

    this may not help the pension plan with dividends either:

    “The Lambie family, through the Craigie Trust, is fighting Auckland International Airport Ltd (AIAL) in the High Court to get back 36ha of the original family farm – now worth an estimated $1.26 billion to $1.44 billion. In the 1980s it would have been worth around $15 million”


  16. Steve Pierson 16

    insider. the CPF is talking aobut asset-stripping, that’s how they would get higher divdends – ‘generate better returns’. Anyone can asset-strip but we don’t want to because it would be bad for our major aiport and bad for our economy.

  17. insider 17

    IS that your interpretation or have they published details? (I genuinely don’t know what their plans are)

  18. andy 18


    As a regular user of AIA I would not like to see the costs of using the airport go up further. I find the services offered over priced and poorly delivered out there because of the lack of competition. i think the pensions plans would only make that problem worse.

    to put it in perspective its cheaper to park in Queen st for an hour than the airport, and that can only go up with a leveraged buyout, and that is what it is LEVERAGED on borrowed money and you and I know that the price of money and risk is going up rapidly. how is that risk paid for by the user.

    But this is all basics for you because your not a dirty socialist, eh! Are you just arguing for the sake of arguing. Not much research work for JK at the moment?

    captcha: house lucy

  19. Steve Pierson 19

    insider. read o’sullivan’s piece: the CPF wants dividends three times what they are now – dividends three times what they are now is equal to AIA’s entire revenue (before costs and taxes and all that) last year, follow the link I gave you to the financial statements.

    That’s called bleeding a company dry.

    captcha: indirectly loot. precisely.

  20. insider 20


    I take it then that it is your interpretation of what is intended based on anything CPF has put out. Some questions,

    what is the timeframe for this tripled dividend?
    Have you considered that there may be other ways to increase dividends than ‘asset stripping’?
    If you haven’t, does this mean other people can’t think of other ways?

  21. insider 21


    by declaring AIA a sacred cow do you not worry that it will reduce competitive pressure on a monopoly making its service levels potentially worse?

  22. Snelly Boy 22

    Sorry to kill the discussion but this is old hat.

    The Canadians hoped to extract these so called hyper dividends by taking advantage of a well known tax loophole.

    This is the loophole that Cullen and Dunne shut down nearly 2 weeks ago. So the hyper dividend debate is dead. That’s why O’Sullivan says in her article the Canadians WON’T be getting this benefit.

    Despite this the Canadians decided to plug on which forced Cullen to then change the overseas investment rules last week.

    Where’ve you been?

  23. andy 23


    Not a sacred cow to me, open up hobsonville as a second airport and the Canadians can have AIA….

    Some times monopolies do not serve thier customers so well, so its best in my mind that those monopoly rents are at least kept in NZ, this also forces reinvestment in NZ.

    NZ Rail, two good examples of monopoly rents being sent overseas to the detriment of customers and reinvestment in production efficiency.

  24. Steve Pierson 24

    Snelly. seems you’re right that the tax law change blocked these hyper-dividends, but the argument that the CPF is here to asset-strip still stands.

  25. yep and it still stands that it must be a prime investment if they’re willing to forego controlling interest despite seeking such a large share in the company.

    perhaps that’ll be National’s groundbreaking new policy for any remaining SOEs it can’t sell off – own the majority but surrender all control to offshore corporations?

  26. I hope the CPF doesn’t read this blog, you cannot just make things up with out some hard data and Facts, then again it doesn’t stop the Green party.

    I’m guessing one of these days, you are going to need a very good Lawyer.

  27. James Kearney 27

    I just had a look at your blog Brett.

    Guess what?, Auckland International Airport doesn’t belong to the people, it doesn’t belong to Little Jimmy or Little Sarah, it doesn’t belong to a Local dairy farmer, or the person who cuts your hair, it doesn’t belong to the little people or the big people.


    Are you a fascist?

  28. insider 28

    So Sprout your idea is that the two birds in the bush that the other party might see are worth more to you than the one in you have in your hand, even though you might not actually be able to see those birds and whether you’d like them, and you might not be able to catch them if you could see them, and even if you could might not be able to tame them and make use of them when you did?

  29. Gooner 29

    Steve Pierson is completely wrong and is shown so yet stands by his post.

    Brett Dale points out the truth and the obvious position and is called a fascist.


  30. sdm 30

    Hey Steve

    Looks like they are getting closer! Must have got my forms…

  31. the sprout 31

    insider: incomprehensible.

    funny when even arch capitalist darlecks like John Banks thinks selling is a bad idea.

  32. insider 32

    Sprout your commercial logic is: these guys want to pay us more than we think this business is worth. There’s somthing fishy going on here, so let’s not sell it for an inflated price just in case we might be able to do the same, even though we’ve not been capable of doing it before.

    Brilliant. Let’s chuck away heaps of money now on the possibility we might be able to make it another way, even though that is not certain.

    You have also missed the Mayor of Auckland saying the board hasn’t been aggressive enough in paying high dividends and he wants more. He wouldn’t be suggesting asset stripping would he because Steve the economic oracle doesn’t beleive you can get more out of it any other way…

  33. the sprout 33

    insider. your logic seems to be that things are only valuable when you sell them, and only worth what cash is relaised in a sale.

    my position is that AIA is of considerable value both in and of itself, and to the broader NZ economy; while selling it would not only result in yet more profits being extracted offshore, it would also reduce control over a strategic portal for our national economy; CPF see it as the monopoly it is and willing to do almost anything it seems to get a piece of that action, after all control of a strategic assett that is also a monopoly operator is carte blanch for gouging.

    i can’t see that owners who have absolutely no interest in the broader impacts of AIA’s operation would ever moderate their profit extraction in order to serve those broader interests.

  34. insider 34

    No you misinterpret me. there is obviously a big divergence in the perceptions of AIA’s value, whether it is sold or not. Some seem to think that is sinister. I think it is because some will see opportunities where others don;t.

    You appear to be valuing a range of emotional intangibles that aren’t reflected in the share price. I think they are highly speculative and hard to quantify.

    Of course it is a monopoly and attractive at a certain price. But I doubt at any price and nOw Banks is saying it has been underperforming in dividends – which is supported by the high offer price by CPF.

    The weakness in your gouging argument is that it is already a monopoly and already exploits that in its prices. There are also laws that prevent monopolies abusing market power as well as competition from overseas airports which provide a benchmark price. International airlines don’t have to use Auckland. They could switch to Melbourne or Sydney or Chch if the prices in Auckland got too high, and the airlines are not slow in complaining about airport pricing as Air NZ has demonstrated.

  35. insider 35

    Apparantly about 57% of shareholders, excepting Manukau and Auckland CC, have agreed to CPF’s offer.

    Sort of putss this statement in its place

    “Predictions that shareholders would accept the offer to spite the Government after it intervened to tighten the law protecting strategic assets from foreign control last week have been proven wrong. Ordinary kiwi shareholders along with the Manukau and Auckland city councils (the two biggest shareholders) do not want our prime assets falling under foreign control and are happy with the good dividends the Airport has returned.”

    Looks like ordinary kiwi shareholders don;t really share your national pride in airport ownership if the price is right. Can’t say you weren’t warned

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