Don’t sell into a down market

Written By: - Date published: 7:34 am, August 9th, 2011 - 34 comments
Categories: debt / deficit, privatisation - Tags:

Before the government launched its asset sales policy, the Treasury told it that “significant participation by foreign investors” would be “essential” to provide “pricing tension”. In other words, if they can’t sell to foreigners at a high price, they wouldn’t get the revenue they want. So, the second global financial crisis should scupper the plan, eh?

Even John Key has admitted that the crisis means that, with asset prices falling everywhere, the Nats wouldn’t be able to get the price they had banked on for our energy companies. Even in the government’s over optimistic analysis (they don’t count lost equity growth and underestimate lost dividends), the case for asset sales is razor thin. If the sales revenue is reduced from the projected $5-7 billion to, say $4 billion, then it becomes even more a case of selling off profitable assets for not enough money and no good reason.

Naturally, Key is blase. He thinks that, at worse, sales might be delayed by a couple of months. The sales programme is meant to take 5 years, so that’s a pretty mild reaction.

Even more basically, Key is complacent about how bad things are getting in the global markets. He says that it won’t be as bad as 2008. S&P says it may well be, not least because 2008 drained the reserves of governments, including New Zealand’s, so that they can’t afford to do another round of stimulus and bailouts. S&P singled us out as a country whose credit rating is as risk. He can’t smile and wave his way out of this.

Like Phil Goff says: it’s dumb to sell these assets anyway, it’s even more dumb to sell them now.

34 comments on “Don’t sell into a down market”

  1. Lazy Susan 1

    The financial guru Key stikes gold again!

    2008/9 Crash – suspend payments to the Cullen fund

    2011/12 Crash – Flog off strategic, profitable assets at knock down prices.

    Now what was that John? Oh that’s right the “buy at the top sell at the bottom” play.

    • McFlock 1.1

      he’s forgotten that the government books aren’t a short-selling hedge fund.

    • TightyRighty 1.2

      don’t they have to be sold first to make that kind of analysis?

      • mik e 1.2.1

        No Tighty because the valuation the National govt has put on these assets is less than half there true value the power companies part shares are worth in excess of $10 billion Solid energy and Air New Zealand maybe $2 billion. so Key and English are insider trading the value of our share holding away.Tax payer rip off again from the NACTs

  2. tc 2

    More posturing so sideshow appears reasonable and flexible, they’re gone baby gone regardless of the market if they get voted back… done. this is a banker speaking after all.

  3. just saying 3

    Key is a corporate raider. He is currently asset-stripping NZ, and bargian-basement prices are a bonus, (in fact the whole economic and social landscape is nigh on perfect). Key is not complacent, he is a genius at what he does, even if he is pig-ignorant about almost everything else.
    The smiling assassin is literally ‘laughing all the way to the bank’.

    Chilling to think where we all might be in a couple of years time, and what is likely to happen on the way.

    • Tiger Mountain 3.1

      Refer London riots, I predict outbursts in certain ’burbs of Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and way increased property crime in rural areas.

      Cruel pressure on workers rights, weekly redundancies and the welfare system under sustained attack, somethings got to give.

      • McFlock 3.1.1

        I don’t really think we have the population density for a solid political riot. Even the student riots were a bit weak, really.

        • uke

          There were two large urban riots in 1932 in Auckland and Wellington, and smaller incidents in Dunedin (including a relief depot being stoned).
          Population density has certainly increased in the first two of these cities since then.

  4. The problem is that there will be a $6 billion hole in the country’s finances if he does not sell the shares.

    Of course a responsible administration would implement other forms of income either by increasing tax rates for those who can afford them the best or by implementing a new tax that would have a beneficial effect on the economy by steering investment into productive areas and away from land speculation.

    But Key has ruled these out on doctrinaire grounds.

    Time for a change of Government. 

    • Carol 4.1

      But Shonkey’s hero and celebrity role model, Obama, is talking about raising taxes for those that can afford it.

      • Lanthanide 4.1.1

        Yeah, they had Key on Close Up last night and he started talking about Obama’s plan to cut spending by 3T and raise taxes by 1T. He didn’t talk much further about that at all.

  5. vto 5

    So if they become worth around the $4.0 billion mark and bring in about $0.7 billion per annum in income, that makes a 17.5% return per annum, on one of the most stable enterprises in existence.

    I got it – the government should buy them!

    If they don’t then I will. Can’t get that sort of deal ANYWHERE.

  6. queenstfarmer 6

    Like Phil Goff says: it’s dumb to sell these assets anyway, it’s even more dumb to sell them now.

    And here is a perfect example of a pragmatic PM, versus an ideological Goff.

    • bbfloyd 6.1

      queeny.. you got that arse about face… deliberately i suspect… tories running out of ideas? nothing new there..

    • lprent 6.2

      What is pragmatic about selling them?

      Everything that I have seen shows that over a 10+ year term the government loses from selling them especially if you look at a NPV basis.

      Everything that I have seen shows that the public as a whole will lose from selling them. The history of privatizations of natural or near natural monopolies has resulted mostly in price gouging and rising real prices compared to elsewhere, steadily falling levels of structural investment, and use of lobbying by the privatized companies to maintain their monopolies.

      To me, only a fuckwit would sell any of the assets on the block for ‘pragmatic reasons’. To date National has not made a credible case for selling any of the assets they’re looking at. In fact they haven’t even tried – instead we’ve just had some pathetic slogans that fall apart as soon as you look at them closely.

      But I suspect that the ‘pragmatism’ has more to do with paying off investors in National Inc and has very little to do with anything to do with the public good.

      I’d point out that I actually don’t mind selling some assets (hell I have a MBA). There are areas that the government does not need to be involved in. But there are areas that the government is critical to providing infrastructure that allows other businesses to flourish on, and all of these businesses appear to be of that type. Creating more price gouging semi-monopolies owned by people from outside the country is not useful. And based on past performance National will be incapable of providing the required regulatory measures that would prevent that from happening.

      • queenstfarmer 6.2.1

        Pragmatic in that Key is willing to modify or even put a major policy on ice, depending on extraneous circumstance. Versus Labour’s stance on asset sales, which can literally be printed on a road sign.

        • Lanthanide

          A couple of months over 5 years is not a significant modification, nor is it “putting it on ice”.

          A significant modification would be calling it off for 12 months and investigating other tax options to fill the gap.

          • Lanthanide

            Can’t edit.

            Pragmatic would also have been implementing a 12-24 month earthquake levy tax back in March-April. The only reason they didn’t do it is because the government is ideologically opposed to raising taxes and that would have spoiled their “tax cuts solve everything” myth.

            • queenstfarmer

              Re a 12 month delay, you’re missing the point, which is that the pragmatic approach means continually evaluating things. No-one’s locked into a particular timetable as of yet, and decisions can be taken sensibly as they arise.

              Re taxes, a decision not to hike taxes in March-April, that was a completely pragmatic decision, well received in the “zero budget”.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Not this one he isn’t. He’ll sell these off as soon as the election’s over. Hell, he probably already knows who’s going to buy them and it ain’t mum & dad NZers..

          • queenstfarmer

            He’ll sell these off as soon as the election’s over

            So your prediction of the election result is pretty clear 🙂

        • lprent

          What major policy? I’d expect to find some justification for the action if it was a major policy – and there isn’t any. It is just a slogan.

          Ah gee, you’re upset because Labour used a slogan as well…. Please grow up..

        • Marjorie Dawe

          Thank goodness Labour has no policy on asset sales other than to keep them.
          As for the credit ratings agencies, if I had as much debt as the USA has as apercentage of the value of their assets my credit rating would be so low that I would be blacklisted for any lending. I dont know if the statements made in “The Inside Job” were accurate but if they were I would strongly suspect that the ratings agencies are just puppets of the wealthy money men.
          We arent even that badly in debt due to prudence of Michael Cullen so we dont actually need to sell our family silver if the higher earners paid an equal share of their income in tax instead of hiding it.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.3

      Yeah, we will see how pragmatic he is next year when his 170K jobs and 4% growth does not eventuate. How do you think he will make up for the $16 Bill deficit this year (and possibly more next year) his tax cuts created?

      I’m tipping some pretty harsh tax increases and more cuts.

  7. Richard 7

    Like Phil Goff says: it’s dumb to sell these assets anyway, it’s even more dumb to sell them now.

    Depends if you are a seller or a buyer. If you are on the side of the buyers, it is a great time for the assets to be sold, because they’ll be bought cheaply.

  8. Hang on 8

    Firstly, S&P’s job is to be cautious erring on the side of pessimism, their credibility depends on it. The country needs John Key to be positive, if he weren’t the situation would be exacerbated beyond reason. It is apparent that some of the wreckage on stock markets is driven by panic, its the “dont be the last guy standing” mantra.

    Secondly, saying NZ was singled out is a little heavy. We’re among seven countries within the asia pacific region which means to say that globally we’re probably part of a very large club. Lets not inspire more panic.

    • Afewknowthetruth 8.1

      Hang on.

      You have got to be joking! Credit ratings agencies have no credibility. Credit ratings agencies gave AAA status to what shortly afterwards became ‘toxic sludge’ that no one would touch with a barge pole (and is still in the system, on the books at grossly overvalued nominal valuations because nobody dares attempt to sell them).

      The job of a rating agency is to misinfoirm. If S&P were to carry out a proper anaylysis the prospects of the US the US it would have a credit rating of BB- at best.

      The real panic will start when a larger protion of the poplace realises we have all been systematically lied to for decades and that the system has no future.

      That will take quite a while because most people fail to do basic research and take what they are told by officialdom and the corporate medai as being true.

      There was a very nice 5.55% fall in the Dow yesterday. It is nowhere near enough, but it is a move in the right direction.

      Peak oil and environmental degradation are is in the process demolishing the ‘house of cards’ economy built the ‘sands’ of fractional reserve banking and leveraging.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Firstly, S&P’s job is to be cautious erring on the side of pessimism, their credibility depends on it.

      What credibility?

      It is apparent that some of the wreckage on stock markets is driven by panic…

      Correct, the market is irrational

    • Colonial Viper 8.3

      Credit agencies are an integral part of a multinational financialised rort. Assigning AAA’s to stuff which is clearly toxic, and creating self fulfilling prophecies of financial doom when they fire off a downgrade.

      S&P was used this round to participate an equity market collapse which would give Bernanke a rationale to push QE3. Trillions of brand new dollars going to the banks.

  9. Colonial Viper 9

    Actually NZ can now double in USD terms what it charges for these assets. Reason being is that people are desperate to pull out of stocks and put their money in something “solid”.

    The only downside is that in a couple of years, those freshly printed totally debased USD will be only as valuable as 1-ply, and we will have sold our strategic state assets for literally nothing.

  10. Policy Parrot 10

    This announcement is likely to be more about running interference rather than any serious reassessment of the privatisation timetable.

    Privatisation is massively unpopular, even among those who consider themselves National Party supporters. So by announcing that asset sales may not go ahead immediately is a sop to those voters who are considering jumping the fence because of the privatisation policy.

    Obviously some deluded voters think that nice Mr. John will save the assets from the hands of the greedy Nats even though he is their leader, and such an undertaking would result in his unseating.

  11. freedom 11

    On the radio today it was reported that Key has stated he is definitely going ahead with Asset Sales

    • TightyRighty 11.1

      Did he say it will definitely be the minute he is voted in as our prime minister for a second time? Context is all important freedom.

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