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English drained Solid

Written By: - Date published: 11:53 am, March 14th, 2013 - 57 comments
Categories: accountability, assets, bill english - Tags:

Some great work from Labour yesterday as they got the documents showing Bill English in 2009 being advised about Solid Energy’s predicted lower profits from a lower coal price  – and asking for a bigger dividend anyway.

English seemed only concerned about getting debt off the central Government books (to make National look good), even if it just meant loading that debt on the SOE.

John Key commented a few weeks ago about how high Solid’s debt was and how commodity companies didn’t usually carry so much debt – but these documents show it was English pushing for and approving that debt, which tripled in the 2 years after 2009 to nearly 42% (debt to equity).  They were borrowing $13 million in 2009, but $313 million in 2012 as they were trying to keep up with English’s demands.

English had said today that he did not know coal prices were going to decline, “but documents obtained by Labour show that he did”, Shearer said.

Coal prices were always likely to drop from record highs, particularly as large parts of the world are trying to move away from dirty climate-change-causing fuels, and in the aftermath of the GFC – it made sense, even before the evidence that English received the advice from Solid Energy.

This is more incompetence from English, and more fiddling of the books.

It’ll be interesting to see what Don Elder has to say about this today… (particularly as National have largely hung him out to dry…)

57 comments on “English drained Solid”

  1. Ad 1

    Don has nothing to lose, banked the cheque, and will spread the manure far and wide.

    “Soiled Energy”

    • tc 1.1

      Don will play the game as he’s been paid to do so, he’ll attempt to take the heat as there’s other troughs awaiting which he’ll miss out on if he doesn’t cop it sweet.

      Palmer’s the same.

    • aerobubble 1.2

      I blame Labour.

      Labour in order to avoid the tag line no tax cuts in a generation,
      rushed in a tax cut before the election. National would
      have a problem, the pot was empty. Whose going to believe
      they were competent arguing for even greater taxcuts now
      that Labour had given tax cuts away.

      Now we see the outcome. National borrowed, national
      got SOE’s to borrow, National cut services, National
      raised GST, National is going to sell assets (whose
      profits have been inflated by companies taking on debt???).

      All to pay for a windfall tax to the richest.

      ChCh, SCF, Drought, why are the books not bare by now?
      because there was a windfall from high coal, from milk, from
      China holding up the economy. The tax cuts were paid for,
      damnit, National didn’t need to cut etc???? National doesn’t
      need to borrow like there’s no tomorrow….

      Aside. Buyer beware. Earthquakes do happen. Dams can be
      destroyed by sideways shakes like so many buildings in ChCh.
      Energy use is dropping, as people are forced to cut back and/or
      insulate and get more energy efficient. So where’s the growth
      in the energy sector?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    English had said today that he did not know coal prices were going to decline, “but documents obtained by Labour show that he did”, Shearer said.

    So that would be English lying? Is the leader of Labour going to come out and call it that?

  3. Utter incompetence is the only description that can be applied to Blinglish. And I thought these guys were meant to be good economic managers.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    And I just re-tweeted Winston:

    This Government has micro-meddled Solid Energy into bankruptcy.

    • aerobubble 4.1

      What’s funny is the government got SOE’s to borrow, and keep dividends up, SOE’s used the money to purchase and invest. Some lost. Solid Energy lost the most. But the book value of Solid Energy is back where it started, its just the debt that it took on to hand dividends to government that’s the problem, so all government need to do is give back the dividend excess and Solid Energy will be Solid again.

      Another thought, when biodisael subsides were pulled do you think Key’s government thought through the consequences to Solid Energy of pulling from both legs of the stool?

  5. vto 5

    So, simple deceptive and misleading conduct by the Finance of Minister of New Zealand.

    I look forward to charges being brought under the Fair Trading (in Politics) Act 2012 for misleading and deceptive conduct in politics.

    • JonL 5.1

      “I look forward to charges being brought under the Fair Trading (in Politics) Act 2012 for misleading and deceptive conduct in politics.”

      cue Tui’s ad……..

  6. tsmithfield 6

    Of course, this provides a compelling argument as to why governments shouldn’t own companies. Too much opportunity for governments to try and milk the companies for political ends. Thus, said companies might not be able to function effectively as a commercial entity.

    So far as Solid Energy is concerned, I don’t have a problem with them borrowing to diversify. Borrowing commercially means the tax-payer isn’t (theoretically) on the hook for the money. Also, diversifying wisely can help protect organisations from slumps in specific areas such as with the coal prices. However, I think the problem is more to do with how Solid Energy diversified, not so much the general strategy of diversifying.

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 6.1

      No it provides compelling evidence for having better politicians and greater protection for state assets and for not having a fake competitive model in areas like electricity and so on.

      The massive amounts of money siphoned off in Telecom’s operation, including the admission that pricing was deliberately confusing, is a much more compelling arguement for keeping private enterprise away from energy and infrastructure.

      As a public transport usern I also really appreciate the much improved rail service that the private sector gave me, the abandonment of places to catch the bus they aren’t the side of the street in the pouring rain.

      Better service lower cost my backside.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      Of course, this provides a compelling argument as to why governments shouldn’t own companies.

      No, it doesn’t. What it shows is that the actions of the politicians needs to be open so that we, the people, can hold the arse-holes to account.

      • SpaceMonkey 6.2.1

        Agreed. We need to relegislate and expand our definition of “treason” under the Crimes Act to include economic and financial treason. Then the banksters, politicians and finance company sharks might actually see some jail time and not just get wet-bus-ticket fines that they’re able to pay out of their petty cash.

    • Colonial Viper 6.3

      The National Govt fucked up by trying to extract out of SOEs what they couldn’t afford.

      This private sector profit making model should be ended now.

    • Rich 6.4

      opportunity for governments to try and milk the companies for political ends.

      private shareholders would, of course, never do such a thing.

    • I think it is a compelling argument for not allowing National to manage the country’s economy.

      Remember all those surplusses under Helen ts?

    • bad12 6.6

      I will disagree with you on the point of ‘how’ Solid Energy diversified, from any point of view this National Government has put Solid energy in an untenable situation,

      Point one to remember is that at the time of the 2008 election prices for Solid Energy’s coal dropped by one third,

      In 2009 English and Ryall wrote to the Solid energy Board demanding an increase in the dividends paid to the Government as the sole shareholder in Solid Energy, this Solid Energy did and in 2 years delivered 160 million dollars of dividends to the Government,

      Later in 2009-2010 the price Solid Energy received for it’s coal dropped by yet another third, English and Ryall wrote to the Solid Energy Board as the shareholding Ministers advising Solid Energy to raise the level of it’s borrowing,

      This Solid Energy did going from $13 million of debt in 2008 to $300 million of debt by the end of 2011,

      The kneecapping of Solid Energy’s diversification also began in 2009 when the Government removed the requirement for all diesel fuel to have at least 5% bio-diesel by volume,

      This the National Government replaced with a direct subsidy for bio-fuel manufacture of up to 45 cents a liter, and then in 2010 without warning it cancelled this direct subsidy,

      In taking both of these actions, the canning of the 5% bio-fuels requirement and later canning the specific bio-fuels subsidy this National Government has rendered ALL of Solid Energy’s diversifications financially untenable,

      From here the actions taken by Ryall and English look like a deliberate attempt to financially destroy Solid Energy and at the least show that neither Minister is competent to act in Governance of any commercial enterprise…

  7. @ Ben Clark
    Thanks for covering this.

    I was terrifically disenchanted by this revelation.

    Are the ministers of this Government incompetent, or entirely devoid of holding the best interests of NZ uppermost in their minds?

    The answers provided by Mr English yesterday is a clear revelation of one of the above, and neither fill me with confidence.

    Are NZ parliamentarians required to hold the best interests of New Zealanders uppermost in their hearts and minds? Is there any mechanism for protecting New Zealand interests when this is clearly not occurring?

    These are the questions I wish answered.

    I wish for New Zealanders to pull their finger out of their trusting-cum–apathetic ways and start demanding that our politicians hold some* type of accountability for their actions.

    It is historically accurate to say that there have been numerous politicians whose actions create massive problems for large numbers of our population.
    Where is our protection?

    I’ve had enough.
    These people are clearly not acting in the best interests of their fellow New Zealanders.
    What can we do?

    * I realize the purpose behind protecting politicians from personal litigation is due to the amount and scale of the decisions they make. I’m calling for some measure to protect NZers from the moral hazard caused by this protection measure (of politicians), and that is being so very clearly illustrated by our current smirking bunch of loons making up the current Selfinterestment, (commonly referred to as “Government”).

    • freedom 7.1

      “Are NZ parliamentarians required to hold the best interests of New Zealanders uppermost in their hearts and minds? ”
      umm that would be a no.

      “I, [name], swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

      http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/AboutParl/HowPWorks/PPNZ/3/7/5/00HOOOCPPNZ_121-Chapter-12-The-Opening-of-Parliament.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_%28New_Zealand%29

      • freedom 7.1.1

        Putting the whole NZ as a Republic argument aside for a moment, I for one would rather see something more akin to this:

        I [insert name] pledge true allegiance to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. I [ insert name] will repsect and bear allegiance to the Crown of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law or until the actions of the Crown deny or subvert the wishes of the People.

        • muzza 7.1.1.1

          Well picked up Freedom – Any public servant, elected member, police officer, judge etc who swears an oath to *The Crown*, or other foreign entity, is not serving Aoteroa/NZ.

          *The Crown* , does not serve our country, nor do its agents!

          The penny will drop eventually, you can hear the clogs grinding away.

        • blue leopard 7.1.1.2

          Pledging allegiance to the Queen doesn’t discount a requirement to treat her subjects well. These creatures are governing in her name; one would hope she’d be ashamed, or even cross, if she were to find out what they were up to….

          …On second thoughts, she just just knighted Holmes….

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.3

          As if swearing on one figurehead or another, on one book or another, is going to stop the Tories from serving their constituencies.

    • Rich 7.2

      The politicians are just the creatures of the people who vote for them. Maybe there ought to be some recourse for voting for an incompetent government, like fines or prison.

        • RedBaronCV 7.2.1.1

          If you are asking whether they are “thieves or idiots” I think the answer is “both”

      • AmaKiwi 7.2.2

        @ Rich

        So you are blaming the voters!

        That’s as bad as blaming the woman for causing her own rape.

        We were lied to.

        • blue leopard 7.2.2.1

          @ AmaKiwi
          Isn’t there a bit of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me” involved?

          …and how about the case that we have in NZ: fool me countless times-and blatantly-.

          Relating being endlessly gullible to being raped isn’t very accurate at all.

  8. fender 8

    Maybe this will wake the sleepy hobbits from their slumber. It’s about time one of the many unethical goings on of this treacherous John Key wide boy Govt. attracts the attention of voters and is reflected in the polls. I’m sick and tired of these pricks getting away with their crimes and can only hope that like a teflon coated frying pan once the teflon starts deteriorating it comes off progressively faster.

  9. DH 9

    Something Labour & Greens need to watch for is the disposal of all the diversification projects Solid Energy were involved in. They look to be flogged off for nothing without a genuine appraisal of their future value.

    A lower coal price hurts only the coal business. Some of the diversification projects were converting coal into other resources like fuel & fertiliser. The price of those resources hasn’t fallen so a cheaper coal price should make those businesses more viable. Are they getting rid of those too hastily just to improve the books again?

  10. Rogue Trooper 10

    Breaking News on Stuff (up) NAct govt ignored former Solid Energy’s Chairman opposition to a larger dividend.

  11. Descendant Of Sssmith 12

    Hopefully they will also ask about the commercial decision to buy Pike River and what due diligence was carried out and whether this purchase was influenced or directed by Ministers.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10790914

  12. Descendant Of Sssmith 13

    Remembering also that they made the books look better for the government by $300 million here also:

    http://www.investinnz.co.nz/investmentNZ/2011/03/genesis-energy-expected-to-announce-300-500-million-capital-bond-program-to-pay-for-tekapo-investment/

  13. Colonial Viper 14

    So English asked Solid Energy to borrow money and make that money look like profit (dividends) to the Government.

    What a frakkin Ponzi scheme (paying returns to investors which aren’t really there), English should have known better, he gets what is coming to him now.

    • Rogue Trooper 14.1

      the lizards will attempt to slide round and over the rock

    • tc 14.2

      Then move onto the draining of funds from Meridian after they received proceeds from Genesis for the power station swap forced on them by Csar Gerry B.

      Debt is sitting in Genesis that offests this questionable piece of money shuffling.

    • SpaceMonkey 14.3

      “[English] gets what’s coming to him now”

      But will he? They’ll spin this one round and round… a dutiful Chairman and CEO won’t deviate from the already agreed line and a compliant MSM will slavishly report as always. If it all gets too hot, some other “crisis” will appear out of left-field for the MSM to whip up the little Hobbits into a frenzy.

      • muzza 14.3.1

        SM – Spot on, its a rinse and repeat approach now, which operated at ever increasing frquency, as the *crimes* are committed.

        But the blogs will continue provide a commentary/record of the destruction, while NZ becomes eroded to 3rd world status, via fraud/corruption.

        Argh, NZ – The preceieved least corrupt country in the world!

      • muzza 14.3.2

        SM – Spot on, its a rinse and repeat approach now, which operates at ever increasing frequency, as the *crimes* are committed.

        But the blogs will continue provide a commentary/record of the destruction, while NZ becomes eroded to 3rd world status, via fraud/corruption.

        Argh, NZ – The preceieved least corrupt country in the world!

    • AmaKiwi 14.4

      CV, what makes you think he didn’t know it was a Ponzi scheme?

  14. vto 15

    So Don Elder of Solid Energy says this according to Stuff…
    “During the proceedings Elder said in the second half of 2012, the coal industry around the world suffered a “stunning blow”, with coal prices falling faster and further than anyone expected.

    Prices dropped back to 2004 levels, but the coal was three times deeper and four times more costly. This made all mines “cash negative”.

    “This was the perfect storm.””

    The perfect storm? Such that nobody could ever possibly avoid type of perfect storm? Yet other coal businesses are still alive. And yet further, the coal price seems to have only moved within a range that is entirely normal given coal price swings over medium timeframes, and not suffered a stunning drop. In evidence see this historic coal price chart http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/coal/all/

    So what on earth is Don Elder talking about I wonder?

    • Armchair Critic 15.1

      So what on earth is Don Elder talking about…
      He’s talking about being the fall guy, the scapegoat, so the serious scrutiny of the government’s meddling receives less exposure to sunlight. And for the money he will receive as severance pay I’d be tempted to do it too. In fact, If Don cares to contact me, I’ll take full responsibility for the whole omnishambles in exchange for the cash. 🙂
      National can’t afford to let this one get out, because it exposes the “arms length relationship between government and SOEs” and the “no interference from ministers” myths as the total shams they are under this present government.

    • bad12 15.2

      Yes Don Elder still at the taxpayer teat collecting His multi-million dollar annual salary is running the same line of Bovine Defecation as SOE Minister Tony Ryall was when answering questions on the financial gutting of Solid Energy in the House today,

      ‘Brand Slippery’ not wanting to have the ‘truth modifications’ He has tried to hoodwink us all with in His previous utterances on the Solid Energy debacle rubbed in His face was noticeably, along with Bill the Member from Dipton, absent from Quetion time in the House, presumably in hiding until the heat from Solid Energy dies down,

      Why Ryall continues to openly bulls**t everyone about the price of coal having collapsed in 2012 is anyone’s guess, perhaps He is hoping that the media will pick up upon this glaring example of a Government Minister repeatedly and deliberately misleading the Parliament so as to take the heat off both Slippery and English who have previously been less than forthcoming with the truth when answering questions in the House on the financial woes of the States miner Solid Energy,

      http://www.worldcoal.org/coal/market-amp-transportation/coal-price/

      Ryall continually claiming the coal prices fell radically in 2012 is clearly a load of BS, it is clear that coal prices during 2012 to today have been reasonably stable…

    • Rich 15.3

      The reason coal prices were so high was that China was (and ostensibly still is) growing at an unsustainable rate and buying huge amounts of coal and steel for construction projects like these ghost cities.

      While it might be obvious to most of us that sort of thing couldn’t continue, it obviously isn’t when you earn $1.5million a year.

  15. Ed 16

    John Key talked about Solid Energy diversifying to try to become an NZ version of Petrobrass. I suspect that was a National Vision for setting the company up for sale by making it less reliant on a single product – that Key attributes it to others does not necessarily mean anything; the idea was clearly in his mind as preparation for sale.

    Solid Energy is an illustration of why some strategic assets should be kept under government control . . .

  16. Te Reo Putake 17

    Poor Peter Whittall, he’s the real victim here:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10871255

  17. Craig Glen viper 18

    If Elder is sorry he can give back all his Pay to the miners who have lost their jobs. I reckon if you are really sorry you would do everything in your power to help Trevor and the boys on the coast out Don. Talks cheap you leach.

  18. BLiP 19

    And, another one for the list. Is there anything John Key hasn’t lied abiout?

    – We seek a 50% reduction in New Zealand’s carbon-equivalent net emissions, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. 50 by 50. We will write the target into law.

    – National Ltd™ will provide a consistent incentive for both biofuel and biodiesel by exempting them from excise tax or road user charges

    – I didn’t know about The Bretheren election tactics

    – If they came to us now with that proposal [re trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods regime], we will sign it

    – 1981

    – Tranzrail shares

    – Lord Ashcroft

    – National Ltd™ would have sent troops into Iraq

    – Standard & Poors credit downgrade

    – I didn’t say I want wages to drop

    – the real figure of inflation is 3.3 percent.

    – the tourism sector has not lost 7,000 jobs

    – I won’t raise GST

    – the purchase of farmland, by overseas buyers will be restricted to ten farms per purchase

    – capping, not cutting the public service,

    – north of $50 a week

    – privatisation won’t significantly help the economy

    – wave goodbye to higher taxes, not your loved ones

    – I never offered Brash a diplomatic job in London

    – Tariana Turia is “totally fine” with the Tuhoe Treaty Claim deal

    – Kiwisaver

    – National Ltd™ is not going to radically reorganise the structure of the public sector

    – tax cuts won’t require additional borrowing

    – 14,000 new apprentices will start training over the next five years, over and above the number previously forecast

    – Our amendments to the ETS ensure we will continue to do our fair share internationally

    – we are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations

    – any changes to the ETS will be fiscally neutral

    – we [NZ} have grown for eight of the last nine quarters”

    – National Ltd™ will tender out the government banking contract

    – we will be back in surplus by 2014-15

    – unemployment is starting to fall

    – we have created 45,000 jobs

    – we are likely to create 170,000 jobs in the next 4 years

    – I don’t know if I own a vineyard

    – the Isreali spy killed in the Christchurch quake had “only one” passport

    – the Police will not need to make savings by losing jobs

    – GCSB re Kim Dotcom x 3 (that we know about)

    – I voted to keep the drinking age at 20

    – New Zealand is 100% Pure

    – I will resign if found to be lying

    – I’ve been prime minister for four years, and it’s really 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year

    – baseball in New Zealand is attracting more government support

    – the public demanded that we change the labour laws for The Hobbit

    – “The Hobbit” created 3000 new jobs

    – we have delivered 1000 extra doctors in the public service

    – I wasn’t working at Elders when the sham foreign exchange deals took place

    – I was starting School Certificate exams in 1978

    – cutting consent fees and times and opening up land to developers will create affordable housing

    – Labour left the economy in poor shape

    – forecasts show unemployment will fall

    – our [NZ’s] terms of trade remain high

    – the TPP is an example of democracy

    – National Ltd™ will use the proceeds of state asset sales to invest in other public assets, like schools and hospitals

    – New Zealand troops will be out of Afghanistan by September 2014

    – overseas investment in New Zealand adds to what New Zealanders can invest on their own

    – overseas investment in New Zealand creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow

    – National Ltd™ will build 2000 houses over the next two years

    – my officers had no correspondence, no discussion, and no involvement in this [SkyCity] matter

    – SkyCity will only get “a few more” pokie machines at the margins

    – Sky City has approached TVNZ about the purchase/use of government-owned land

    – the Hobbit is going off shore unless we do something

    – Solid Energy asked the government for a $1 billion capital investment

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