Caveat emptor 2

Written By: - Date published: 6:46 am, April 15th, 2013 - 103 comments
Categories: energy, labour, privatisation - Tags:

Labour’s put out a release saying power prices are too high and “signalling that the future Labour Government will make changes to the sector so that New Zealanders considering purchasing shares in Mighty River Power, which go on sale tomorrow, are aware of that before investing”. In other words, ‘we’re gonna cut power prices, and the electricity companies’ profits will be hit’.

You read it here (and here and here), first. I wouldn’t be surprised if New Zealand First and the Greens have policies coming too.

It’ll be interesting to see what reforms the opposition parties put up, because the status quo clearly isn’t working.

The politics of this is smart. It moves the asset sales argument on to new ground, rather than the Left trying to deny something that is going to happen, they’re shifting to an ‘us and them’ struggle, with National on the side of the small elite and foreign investors while the Left’s on the side of households facing rising power bills and people who can’t afford to or don’t want to buy shares.

National will be standing for higher power prices to pay dividends to overseas owners of our power companies; the Left will be standing for fairly priced power for families and fewer dividends flowing out of the country.

I wouldn’t be betting my money on power company profits against that political backdrop.

103 comments on “Caveat emptor 2”

  1. geoff 1

    Finally! Keep going Labour, the more you rip into how unfair NZ has become the more you’ll see your vote go up.

  2. tc 2

    smart politics, now don’t get drawn into any details just keep the focus on the brokers fees/sale costs, dodgy doug’s extra 500k and all the fat cats 73% pay rise, price gouging, browncoals ‘reforms’, dysfunctional behaviour between transpower/generators/lines companies etc etc

    When prompted about what Labour didn’t do remind everyone this Clusterf&^K of a power beauracrcay was the Nat’s doing.

  3. infused 3

    Yeah right they will. They had 9 years to do so and milked them hard. I bet you will find this will backfire.

    • felix 3.1

      Yeah. But milking them to pay for schools and hospitals isn’t really comparable to milking them to put more money in the pockets of the richest people in the country.

      Also, this Clusterfuck of a power bureaucracy was the Nats’ doing.

      • infused 3.1.1

        You got proof that’s where it went? It’s easy to say that.

        Power prices are fucked here, but I don’t think Labour has much credibility on this issue. Just look on stats nz how much it rose under Labour.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.1.1

          Memo to Infused, but but but Laaaaabbboooouuuurrrr….

          …intend to do something about it when next in government. That’s why the press release talks about “the future Labour government.”

          Do you see the difference or do I need to draw you a picture?

          • infused 3.1.1.1.1

            Did you not read what I wrote? Or do I need to draw you a picture?

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, you made a stupid remark about something that happened in the past when this is about something that is going to happen in the future. You do understand the difference between the past and the future, don’t you?

              Pretty simple concept. When Labour regains the Treasury benches it will make changes to the sector so as to reduce prices. Not, “we will go back in a time machine and fix everything Infused thinks Helen Clark did wrong.” That would be pandering to the whims of a whining fool (and breaking some Physical laws), rather than fixing the mess the National Party has made of the electricity sector.

              • infused

                You are still completely missing the point.

                Power prices rose under Labour for 9 years. The now lack the credibility to say they will drop the prices.

                I’m pretty sure Labour are doing this on purpose to be eaten at question time.

                “we will go back in a time machine and fix everything Infused thinks Helen Clark did wrong.”

                Where did I even say that? Obviously you think she did a lot wrong.

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  You are still completely whining “but but but but Llllaaaabbbboooouuurrr!”

                  I hope they nationalise electricity generation, and provide it as a public good to citizens and industries (and yes, even financial service leeches).

                  • infused

                    I’m not whining about Labour at all.

                    I’m saying the lack credibility on the issue. Maybe it’s too early for you.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Do you have polling data on that?

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Oh noes, someone who will never vote Labour says they believe Labour “lacks credibility”.

                      What’s interesting is your notion that this is somehow relevant to the discussion.

                    • infused

                      Knucklehead really suits your nick. Lets see what happens this week then eh.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Thanks sweety. Then let’s see what happens in the 2014 election.

                  • Tiresias

                    I agree with Infused on this.

                    Labour have had how long to prepare a response to the Nat’s power company sales? Yet all they can come up with is a vague statement about “making changes to the sector”. Not a promise, mark you – tho’ even they from a politician’s mouth are not worth the hot air. Not even any indication of what the underlying policy settings which those ‘changes to the sector’ might reflect will be. Shearer’s statement was the absolute minimum he could say without being totally irrelevant to the issue (sic).

                    Labour has no credibility on this, to my mind, and the fact that I’m considerably reducing the amount I was considering ‘speculating’ on the MRP float has more to do with the commercial realities facing the power companies that with any fear that a future Labour Government would seriously rock the boat for investors.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.2

        Using high SOE power prices to pay for schools and hospitals is like using higher GST on food to pay for them. Highly regressive.

        • Murray Olsen 3.1.2.1

          I think it would be more accurate to compare using higher power prices to pay for schools and hospitals to raising GST on fresh fruit and vegetables to pay for them. A policy which encourages cold and damp houses is as bad as one which encourages the eating of processed foods.

    • millsy 3.2

      National also had 9 years to get rid of the DPB. Your point is??

  4. Dv 4

    How good is the board governance?

    Bothe the chair and the deputy chair have form in companies that have gone belly up

    Trevor Jane the deputy chair was a director Of former Capital & Merchant Finance which failed.
    He was exempted from prosecution for signing the 2005/6 investment statements, when others were prosecuted.
    The exemptions has never been explained.

    Joan Withers the Chair was a director of feltex that went belly up in 2004

    Citing a 2007 Securities Commission report, the liquidator says Feltex was in breach of NZX continuous disclosure rules from August 23, 2005 till June 30, 2006 for failing to reveal banking covenant breaches, new ANZ loan terms, a forecast earnings deterioration and planned restructuring costs.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/2728618/Feltex-inactions-ensured-worse-deal
    HT Chris Lee

  5. One Anonymous Knucklehead 5

    I note Fairfax and Granny’s failure to report this announcement.

  6. Gosman 6

    Excellent. So this suggests that Labour won’t be buying back the shares then.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1

      Nope, it suggests that “the future Labour Government will make changes to the sector”.

      Undefined changes, Gosman: it’s a great move, and should completely undermine investor confidence. They’re not ruling anything out. I propose they simply return the stolen property to its rightful owners, and the receivers of said stolen property feel lucky not to be prosecuted.

      • Gosman 6.1.1

        Well if they repurchase the shares and then legislate to lower prices they will be reducing their own revenue stream which is also idiotic. The right are going to have fun with this one.

        Why can’t Labour share what they are planning by the way? Surely they don’t need to work out the exact details to give a hint at the approach they will take.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1.1.1

          Oh I expect (and hope) that’s a deliberate (and quite elegant) strategy to undermine the National Party’s rotten agenda. Destroy market confidence, that sort of thing.

          I hope it fucks up your greedy plans.

          • Gosman 6.1.1.1.1

            I doubt it will work. Just makes Labour look like they don’t really know what they are going to do. If Labour was in a better position poll wise it might have an impact but not currently.

            • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1.1.1.1

              “If Labour was in a better position poll wise it might have an impact but not currently.”

              You mean the big swinging dicks of the market don’t know how MMP works, or how to count to 51?

              Figures.

              • Gosman

                Doesn’t matter if they can or can’t. It is all about perception. Currently the perception is Labour is weak and therefore will be in a weak position when it comes to forming the next government. As such any influence it has on the current situation is equally weak.

    • tc 6.2

      why should they repay the nat’s debt ?

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    I notice that ‘Yes’ illogical and pointless comments have just disappeared.

  8. Peter 8

    It’s not much of a caveat emptor and it’s far too late to spike the process or the share price. It’s more of Labour’s usual call – let’s have a REVIEW (or an inquiry, or a commission, or an investigation, or the great bombshell of them all, dropping it off at the Auditor General’s office, … and on it goes). In other others, an excuse to delay making a decision a bit longer.

    Three months ago, yes, now, most people’s response will be, oh yeah, that David Shearer guy, is he still around?

  9. Nick K 9

    Typical David Shearerpisos – “we’re going to do something, we just don’t know what”.

    And the writer of this post has the gall to label this post Caveat Emptor. What are investors supposed to be aware of? Shearerpisos hasn’t said what it is. What a cock. All he’s trying to do is HOPE people will be put off buying shares because of political posturing. If they do (and that’s a big if), he can say the float is a flop. He’s not interested in regulating electricity – he’s interested in political embarrassment. As I said, what a cock.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 9.1

      Peter and Nick. I’m as quick to criticise Captain Mumblefuck as the next person, but I don’t agree with either of you.

      Labour sends a clear signal that it will act to reduce prices in the electricity market. If you think that doesn’t have an impact on investor behaviour I have a bridge to sell you.

      • Peter 9.1.1

        I think by my reckoning Labour has made at least three attempts to “intervene” in the electricity psuedo-market to bring prices down. All of its attempts have involved mind-boggling complexity and all have failed.

        Let’s see, we had the Electricity Commission, that became the Electricity Authority. We had the reserve generation scheme at Whirinaki, that had a starting price offer of about $150 a MWh (which also didn’t work – it just got gamed, and now Whirinaki has been sold and put into pieces). We also had the botched pricing on the HVDC, that loaded all the costs of it onto the South Island generators.

        You can’t solve a failure of complexity by whacking on more complexity. The simple solution is the best solution – combine what remains into one nationwide generator, and regulate it properly. But of course, asset sales stop this, and lock in the super-normal profits.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 9.1.1.1

          The simple solution is the best solution. Asset sales don’t prevent it, they just present a hurdle.

          As for your assertion that “changes to the sector” = “whacking on more complexity”, citation needed.

          • Peter 9.1.1.1.1

            I gave you a paragraph of changes, for you and your fellow “knuckleheads” to research if you choose. All amounted to further complexity on a broken complex system.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 9.1.1.1.1.1

              No. Labour have announced that they will make “changes to the sector”. They have not said what they will do. You’ve made a convincing case that what they have done up ’til now has failed, not that they will do the same thing again.

              I wear my knucklehead status with pride. It was awarded by the Lying Prime Minister.

              • Peter

                Yeah fair enough. What I’m suggesting, based on past history, is that Labour will engage in tinkering of the power market, because Shearer and others on his front bench believe that the market fundamentally works, and just needs another round of rule changes. That’s essentially the policy of the fifth Labour government, and it has not changed.

                Of course, they could do a fundamental reform, but on past performance, such a measure seems unlikely, and it’s also hard to do without crashing the share price. What Key and English have done with the asset sale is to lock in the market model for power. Media reporting on Mighty River performance in the future will be reporting of its share price and annual profit, not the underlying basis of the company, and no one, Shearer included, will want to engage in measures that will tank the share price for all those Mum and Dad investors who will put their money into the asset floats.

                So the reforms we need – which include dispensing with the false competition of the NZ Electricity Market, and a return to long-term strong regulation and planning, are not within Labour’s power to implement.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  So the reforms we need – which include dispensing with the false competition of the NZ Electricity Market, and a return to long-term strong regulation and planning, are not within Labour’s power to implement.

                  It’s within their power – it’s more a question of it being within their world view. I really don’t think it is.

              • Draco T Bastard

                You’ve made a convincing case that what they have done up ’til now has failed, not that they will do the same thing again.

                But we haven’t seen anything from Labour that they’re going to try anything different from the high complexity faux free-market model that’s already in place.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Exactly.

                  I’m confused as to what in the last 12 months has convinced people that Labour is suddenly going to not just accept a much lower dividend from the SOEs, but that it is willing to actively do what is needed a) to drive that Treasury revenue downwards and b) replace that lost revenue from other sources like taxation.

                  • McFlock

                    The Greens on 12-15%.
                    Plus Mana.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      So tease that out for me McFlock. Who inside that coalition will push for lower dividends from SOEs, and replacing lost Crown revenue through higher taxes?

                    • McFlock

                      Not sure about specific individuals in labour caucus, although I’d expect there to be a few – Eddie’s three-way model seems close enough for shits and giggles. But my guess is that mana would be pushing for higher top-level taxes with the probable involvement of the greens, too, while also going for lower power prices (although the greens might have a conflict between social justice of low power prices and the carbon/energy use thing, especially regarding huntly). And the Maori Party might also be interested in lowering power prices (unless Iwi corps invest heavily in the asset sales).

                      I think the remainder of labour (beyond whichever individuals want to really kick the sector and boost taxes) would prefer to do the clark incremental changes rather than a full revolutionary change, but could be kicked further left by a block of about 20% or more of mps.

                      That’s assuming that the most (as a relative measure) right-wing 2/3 of current caucus aren’t possessed by the ghosts of the first labour government and suddenly sing the Internationale at the start of each Labour caucus meeting, of course.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I’m not aware that Labour has ever stated that they are open to including Mana MPs in a government coalition.

                    • McFlock

                      aye.
                      And Labour might not even go for a formal coalition with a single MP.

                      But it’s amazing the results a single MP can get if the government wants/needs an extra vote. Hypothetical examples might be charter schools or a hair product allowance.

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.2

        Labour sends a clear signal that it will act to reduce prices in the electricity market.

        it’s never managed it before.

        Note, in Government, Labour has always wanted to extract maximum revenues for Treasury from SOEs, whether they be TVNZ or Genesis.

    • karol 9.2

      I tuned into Morning Report to hear a financial advisor and writer Martin Hawes being interviewed on the Labour announcement.

      [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20130415-0808-financial_advisor_feeling_cautious_about_mighty_river_shares-048.mp3" /]

      He was a bit puzzled by what Labour would actually do. However, he has looked at the information about Mighty River Power and decided he doesnt think it’s worth investing in, for himself or “mum and dad” investors. Labour’s announcement seems a bit waffley, but it has contributed to a bit of a shift in the narrative.

      And just up, Hawes explains, in a Dom Post article, why he is cautious about MRP shares.

      • Gosman 9.2.1

        Wow! One financial advisors decides he won’t buy. Guess the whole sale process is stuffed now.

        Weirdly his reasoning would have greater influence on the sale than Labour’s recent announcement. That just serves to illustrate the impotence of the Labour party at the moment.

      • QoT 9.2.2

        Yeah, I could’ve done with a bit more detail, to be honest, but obviously they had to time this right or it would’ve been a completely empty gesture.

        Fingers crossed that this time the “we’ll have full details shortly” tactic delivers.

    • Tim 9.3

      Shearerpisos – :p Love it!

  10. tarkwin 10

    It’s easy to make promises you haven’t a hope of delivering on.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 10.1

      It’s easy to pretend you know what the 2014 election result will be when you haven’t got anything substantive to say.

  11. Lionel 11

    sadly Labour has missed the boat they should,ve addressed this issue when in government

  12. felix 12

    About time.

    Anyone want to explain why Labour didn’t announce this until yesterday?

    The first anyone heard of it (anyone who doesn’t read Labour’s press releases) was at 7:22 this morning on radio nz, a whole 38 minutes before the shares went on sale.

    • ghostrider888 12.1

      Key : cause the nats felt the imperative to get key on tele this am to un-lock LABOUR’s announcment at the crack-of-dawn.

      actually, topically, radio-active 🙂

    • QoT 12.2

      Damn. There goes my positive comment about the timing, above. Should’ve stuck with the good ol’ cynicism.

  13. Poission 13

    the risk apportioned to natural oligopolies is that they use spurious revaluations of assets ( ie book values) to validate price increases eg ROI.

    As it is actually not a return on investment,but an imaginary number the enhanced value should be taxable.If a tax or capital gain mechanism was in place the assets would move back across on the balance sheets at the speed of light. removing the inconsistency ie revaluation and depreciation.

  14. cricklewood 14

    The silver lining to the sales if you will, Labour or any other govt will be less inclined to push the power companies for higher dividends (which resulted in the power companies lifting prices)to top up the coffers.The whole thing is/was a form of regressive tax where the money was collected by stealth penalising those who could afford it the least.

    Now there is less of a dividend for the Govt to collect, heavily regulating prices down becomes a much more palatable option and will be of great benifit to those who struggle to pay large monthly bills. Hell you could even lift PAYE rates to compensate at the upper end.

    Be good policy and the less taxation by stealth the better….

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Optimistic, but nah. Institutional buyers may have been assured by the govt that the Crown would take no action to reduce power prices and margins after the sale.

      And trust me, the institutional buyers will have got that in writing. Have you heard of any “Kiwi Share” Telecom style price controls as part of this deal? Nope? Basically, the country’s fucked.

      • cricklewood 14.1.1

        Could an option be then that if there is still a company wholly owned by the GOVT remaining that it simply for go or reduce it’s requirement for a dividend? It’s not regulating prices but it would distort the ‘market’ if one company is suddenly not required to make a profit.

  15. ghostrider888 15

    Double Entry Book Thinking

  16. Wayne (a different one) 16

    “Caveat Emptor 2” or Economic Sabotage on the part of Labour?

    Brilliant economic thinking by “sheep” – so if I was ever to attain the leadership of the country (big if), I’m going to destroy the ability of the government to reap any returns from a partly pivatised SOE.

    Great stuff Labour, your economic nouse beggars belief.

    • Lightly 16.1

      would you prefer that they hadn’t warned investors about the changes that they will be making? How’s that fair?

      • Colonial Viper 16.1.1

        Wayne means that Labour is sabotaging the Elite’s plans for sabotaging our country’s infrastructure and heritage. Boohoo Wayne.

        • Nick K 16.1.1.1

          How so? He hasn’t announced anything. Typical Shearerpisos – “we’re gonna do something, but we’re too think to figure out what”.

          By the way: I’m still buying. As is my wife and daughter. If an incoming Labour government screws it for us, c’est la vie. I expect to be screwed by Labour anyway. A few shares in MRP won’t bother me.

          • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1.1

            Don’t worry, Labour will tend to your needs as a comfortable middle class voter

          • felix 16.1.1.1.2

            Good for you, Nick.

            So are you buying shares purely as a matter of principle then?

            Also, how did you get away with marrying your daughter?

            • Nick K 16.1.1.1.2.1

              Aye? My daughter has an IRD number so she’s registered, despite still being at school.

              I am buying shares because a solid infrastructure stock like this is a good investment. I am not worried about those cretins from NZ First saying they will buy them back because they are all bullshit and bluster.

              Cunliffe taxing revenue is more worrying.

              • felix

                Jesus man, what did the school have to say about you marrying your child-bride?

                And yes, a good investment. A good investment in principle which you expect Labour to screw you on in fact.

            • mac1 16.1.1.1.2.2

              Felix, I am in agreement with your discernment of the lack of agreement. If you be curious about “how did you get away with marrying your daughter?”

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYlJH81dSiw

              The above may elucidate. “I’m my Own Grandpa.”

    • Draco T Bastard 16.2

      You do realise that the profit model is what’s causing the social problems that we’re seeing don’t you?

  17. Ad 17

    Labour has made it hard to know what to “caveat emptor” about. They haven’t released any policy, all they’ve done is destabilise things further.

    This is great for the political game of driving the opening price down, as it spikes the Government’s budget targets.

    But many rational and patriotic Kiwis will be damned if they are going to let this country fall to foreigners and who will open their chequebooks to make that happen within their power. There is more to self interest in life, for some.

    Labour’s intervention to simply unsettle the market beyond 2014 closes more of those chequebooks, so the foreign institutions will step in instead. So the net result from today is Labour has done good beltway politics, great for diehards who will do anything to destabilise the sale process, bad for the all-important task of keeping that share register in the hands of New Zealanders.

  18. ghostrider888 18

    another Three Shades of Red Lanterns
    http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/stocks/world-indexes/

  19. Private Baldrick 20

    Can you pay for shares with turnips ?

  20. tsmithfield 21

    What “sheep” doesn’t seem to realise in this “brilliant” strategy is that many Labour voters who have battled away to save a few dollars over their lives and buy shares in SOEs might well be affected if “sheep” ever gets the chance, and is stupid enough to try and impliment such any such policies if he is able to dream some up that don’t simultaneously undermine his revenue stream for budgets.

    This sounds like a mindless announcement made with very little thought to the unintended consequences which will be considerable.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 21.1

      In other news, wingnut disagrees with political opponent.

    • felix 21.2

      “What “sheep” doesn’t seem to realise in this “brilliant” strategy is that many Labour voters who have battled away to save a few dollars over their lives and buy shares in SOEs might well be affected”

      Good lord you’re right. Labour should probably make some sort of announcement to warn them. 🙄

      • Colonial Viper 21.2.1

        if TS thinks that people should put their few dollars of hard earned lifetime savings on the sharemarket, it’s probably best not to listen to his advice. On anything.

    • millsy 21.3

      Nothing to stop people from investing in other companies. Fletcher Building looks like a good idea, with the CHC rebuild set to take off…

  21. tsmithfield 22

    National have stated they plan to use the proceeds of the sales for improving social assets such as schools, hospitals etc. So, it seems to me that “sheep” is indirectly attempting to undermine the social infrastructure of the country. Nice work from a Labour leader. This guy really is a mumblefuck. Honestly.

    • felix 22.1

      Goodness. I wonder where we ever got the revenue to pay for schools and hospitals before the geniuses in National decided to sell our revenue generating assets. 🙄

      • McFlock 22.1.1

        obviously we couldn’t, because public debt has skyrocketed ever since Lab1.
        In the Toriverse, anyway.

    • Daveosaurus 22.2

      National also stated that they wouldn’t raise GST, and that they wouldn’t borrow to spend on tax cuts for the wealthy. They lied twice: why are you sure they aren’t lying a third time?

  22. Rodel 23

    Is the Labour worm turning?
    Interest me more and I might vote for you. Gee I might even deliver some pamphlets

    • Colonial Viper 23.1

      No rush it’s not Friday night yet, don’t get desperate just because the phone rings once

  23. millsy 24

    Not getting too excited about what these changes are till I them.

    Put up or shut up, Shearer.

    The magic sentence.

    • Mary 24.1

      That’s right, and given Labour’s tendency not to deliver on anything it’s promised while in opposition since the 1991 benefit cuts I’d bet my house that they won’t deliver on this one, either. The right must be laughing right now at Shearer’s empty threat. They know Labour would be selling off all they possibly could if they were in government, probably more than what Key et al have planned.

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