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‘Mum & Dad’ right to be angry with Nats

Written By: - Date published: 9:42 am, December 5th, 2013 - 40 comments
Categories: privatisation - Tags:

Mighty River, Meridian, and Air New Zealand are all now trading well below their listing prices (Mighty River is down 20%!) costing ‘mum and dad investors’ tens of millions of their savings. When journalists raise that with National, Bill English’s angry response is ‘you would be complaining if they had made windfall gains too’. He’s right. And there’s the rub. The Government has conflicting interests in a share sale.

On the one hand, the Government does have a duty to be a good steward of public wealth. That should have meant not selling the assets in the first place. Secondly, it should mean getting a good price if you’re stupid enough to sell. National failed on those measures. Mighty River and Meridian both sold for significantly less than expected.

On the other hand, the Government has a fiduciary duty in dealing with its citizens, especially when they are on opposite sides of a contract. That is, they shouldn’t be out to rip us off. So, the New Zealanders who listened when ministers said that these would be great investments, an opportunity to diversify from housing and take on a stake in a solid infrastructure company, and acted as the government intended when they saw National’s $8 million ad campaign encouraging them to buy shares have a right to feel aggrieved. After all, they only did what the Government told them to do, and they’re poorer for having done it.

Doesn’t that put the Government between a rock and a hard place? Sell too cheap and be damned as privatising public wealth when the price rises; sell to expensively and be accused of tricking people out of their savings. Yeah, it kind of does. What’s the solution? How about don’t sell the bloody things?

Last night, English told Garner that the odds of selling Genesis are only 50/50. Seems even he can learn.

*If anyone tries to claim that losses in share values ‘don’t count’ until you sell the shares, you’re a fucken moron. The NZX records the change in the dollar value of shares, why wouldn’t you? Do you think changes in the value of your house ‘don’t count’ until you sell? Because the bank thinks they count. Does a business or the government ‘not count’ changes in the value of its non-cash assets and liabilities? How can you work out the economics of keeping an investment if you don’t use its current market value when making your decision?


40 comments on “‘Mum & Dad’ right to be angry with Nats”

  1. Puckish Rogue 1

    *If anyone tries to claim that losses in share values ‘don’t count’ until you sell the shares, you’re a fucken moron

    – They don’t because I’m happy with the divedends I’m receiving which is why I bought them. Warren Buffett always talks about how he buys shares with the view that the stock market might close for ten years so the day to day or month to month performance doesn’t bother him so I tend to take more notice of what he says (about shares anyway)

    • Lightly 1.1

      yeah, read Warren Buffet’s annual reports – it’s all about share price movements. In fact, Buffet never pays dividends, the gain or lose you get from investing in him is entirely dependent on share price movements.

    • Rich 1.2

      Tell you what, how about giving me $20k. I’ll pay you an 8% ‘dividend’. If you want the money back, I’ll give you everything I haven’t spent – maybe a couple of grand if you’re lucky..

      • Puckish Rogue 1.2.1

        Show me proof of earnings for the last decade and a prospective and I’ll judge the investment on its merits

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      They don’t because I’m happy with the divedends I’m receiving which is why I bought them.

      Perfect definition of a Bludger – someone who gets something for doing nothing.

      • Puckish Rogue 1.3.1

        Minus the tax from the earnings of course so not a bludger at all

        • Draco T Bastard

          Doesn’t matter how much tax you pay, you’re still getting something from other peoples work which you didn’t help with and so you’re a bludger.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Well, that depends- did he actually work hard* for the money he invested in the first place?

            I’m all for people getting a return on investing their wages. That’s fine. It’s the fact that some people inherit vast sums of wealth or that people are paid more than they can possibly contribute to an organisation that cheeses me off.

            So, I think people should choose: Do they want the ability to get a return on capital, or do they want inheritance and padded paychecks? Because having both is completely unreasonable.

            *ie. not inherit, or not earn in an overpaid position like corporate CEO, commodities trader, etc…

        • idlegus

          bennies pay tax too…

      • Wayne 1.3.2

        He did do something. He spent his capital to buy the shares. Or do you think interest (and dividends) are immoral. And that capital is free.

  2. dv 2

    BUT the market price will factor in the dividend expectation.

    Contact has produced about 6% pa over the 12 years.
    That is below the average bank rate.

    • Puckish Rogue 2.1

      The banks giving 4-5% return at the moment so I’m still happy with the divedends…

      • QoT 2.1.1

        “Yes, I stole your car, but I’m still giving you a cut of the petrol money so I’m the good guy here.”

      • Judge Holden 2.1.2

        The banks are paying 4-5% and you’re happy with -20%. You’re a genius.

        • Akldnut

          PR – I’ve got a bridge that you may be interested in, if not, I have a friend who’s brother in laws nephews, girlfriends best friend has a freehold farm in the Waikato and she’s looking at swapping it for a car because she hasn’t got on to make it to her Winz appointments. Interested?

  3. Lanthanide 3

    Do you think changes in the value of your house ‘don’t count’ until you sell? Because the bank thinks they count.

    That depends entirely on whether you care what the bank thinks. If there is no mortgage on the property, and you’re not trying to use the equity as leverage for any other purpose, then it doesn’t matter at all what the market value of your house is… until you come to sell it.

    Which is exactly the same for shares, if you’ve bought those shares with the intention to hold on for long-term gains. The present-day market value literally does not matter to you if you are not trying to use that notional value for any purpose.

    The takeaway from this is that losses in share value matters to *some people*, and to others it doesn’t matter at all. So insisting that the loss in share value matters to everyone who holds the shares makes you look very ignorant.

    • Puckish Rogue 3.1

      Hey be fair to the guy, hes probably just trying earn a paycheck (maybe I mean I’m just guessing as to why he does it)

    • Lightly 3.2

      this is so fucken stupid.

      If I spend $1000 on a financial asset and now I can only sell it for $800, then it is now worth $800 on my books. It’s not still worth $1000 just because I don’t want to face the truth.

      • Lanthanide 3.2.1

        I’m not saying it’s not worth $800.

        I am replying to James’ point:

        If anyone tries to claim that losses in share values ‘don’t count’ until you sell the shares, you’re a fucken moron.

        IF you don’t care about the share price, because it doesn’t matter to you, then the claim that the losses in share values “don’t count” is true.

        It is perfectly legitimate to “not care” about the price of the shares, and doing so does not make you a “fucking moron”. It just means you have different financial priorities from someone who does care about the price of shares. James is wrong.

        • Lightly

          it does make you a fucken moron if you hand over $1000 for something and then don’t care what happens to its value. Because if you don’t monitor changes in that value, you can’t possibly assess whether continuing that investment is rational.

          • alwyn

            In that case you are calling Bill Gates a “fucken moron”.
            In the dot.com crash of 2000 Gates was estimated to have lost more than $20 billion because of the drop in the value of his Microsoft shares,
            He said that he didn’t care and that as far as he was concerned nothing had changed. As he said, Micosoft hadn’t changed and he still owned the same percentage as he had yesterday so why should he care? As far as he was concerned he hadn’t lost anything.
            Still you are no doubt much smarter than the moron Bill aren’t you?

          • Lanthanide

            Once again, if someone who is investing in shares is doing it on the basis of “this will pay me a dividend, I don’t care whatsoever about the share price in the short-medium term” then the share price in the short-medium term literally is meaningless to them.

            Get it through your thick head that not everyone makes investment decisions on the same basis.

            Now, if suddenly the dividend payout became much less than they had been anticipating, they would likely be concerned. And similarly the share price itself would likely reduce to match the reduced future-flow of dividends. Which could put them in a pickle if they ended up needing to sell.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Let me put it to you this way:

            Say you invest $1,000 in a company that pays you a $25 yearly dividend, but their current market value has halved, so you’ve “lost” $500, notionally.

            If that dividend looks set to stay stable or increase over the long term, and you intend to hold on to the shares for 50 years, are you an idiot?

            The answer is: No, you’ll achieve a 25% return on your investment, plus the market value of the shares if you choose to sell them afterwards. It’s perfectly legitimate to hold on to shares for their dividends, in fact, it’s usual practice.

            So, people might not currently feel bad about buying power company shares. (Especially if they think that a buy-back is on the table. For sighing.) The real question is how they’ll feel if we get the promised NZ Power setup with a new government. 😉
            (Well, that and the concept of participating in asset theft)

    • Disraeli Gladstone 3.3


      Thank you.

  4. rich the other 4

    So Key isn’t looking after his mates after all.
    The cry !Looking after his rich mates! is proven to be another green/labour fairy tale..
    green/labour will be delighted they have managed to undermine the value of ” mum and dads” investment which also means our 51% has also declined at the same rate.
    We all loose , thank’s green/labour, a real incite to your business management skills.
    If they ever get a chance they will bankrupt us all.

    • framu 4.1

      “The cry !Looking after his rich mates! is proven to be another green/labour fairy tale..”

      just because the share price dropped?

      you really are a simplistic, one dimensional fellow arent you

      and can you explain how green/lab reduced the value when it was nationals decision to persue the sales in the way they have inspite of the announcement of NZ power

      why do you hate the opposition for announcing their intentions ahead of the sales?

      Its not a shop – they are state owned assets being sold in a recession against popular will – the whole thing is 100% political.
      Even national know this – their entire policy and sales messaging would have been different if they thought it was just a financial deal wouldnt it

    • Mike S 4.2

      “which also means our 51% has also declined at the same rate.”

      Assuming that the government isn’t going to sell off the remaining 51% (to their rich mates), then the “decline” you mentioned means nothing at all. The 51% of the assets and infrastructure still have the same value as they did before the sale. Only those who purchased shares have seen a decline in their investment value and we all know they aren’t “mums and dads”.

      If you think share prices are indicative of the true actual worth of a company then you’re way misguided.

    • So Key isn’t looking after his mates after all.
      The cry !Looking after his rich mates! is proven to be another green/labour fairy tale..

      Not at all, rich.

      The Nats cut taxes twice for the top income earners. That lost the government billions in lost revenue. So the Nats had to borrow more to make up for it, and sell down state assets.

      In turn the top income earners were able to but shares in SOEs with the extra cash they received through the ’09 and ’10 tax cuts.

      And with the loss of 49% of Meridian, Air NZ (a bit less), and Mighty River Power, this government (and future governments) face a drop in revenue.

      All because the Nats went ahead with tax cuts we could ill afford.

      Have I left anything out about the Nats looking after their mates?

  5. rich the other 5

    famu ,
    That’s a strange question,
    (why do you hate the opposition for announcing their intentions ahead of the sales?)

    National announced their intentions to SELL 49% BEFORE the last election , they WON and their coalition partners accepted that policy.
    Make no mistake , the losses being incurred by “mum and dad ” investors is a direct result of green/labours threats to interfere in the electricity market.

    • Will@Welly 5.1

      The share value has dropped because the Government has flooded the market with one commodity – electricity. And is threatening to put more shares into the marketplace. Many speculators sold their shares in the first couple of days. Don’t blame Labour/Greens – blame a flawed ideology.

    • framu 5.2

      and lab/green announced their intention in response before the first float happened didnt they.

      its not a strange question at all – when should any opposition party announce their policy intentions? before or after? – warn or surprise?

      if you think that it would have been better for lab/green to keep it secret your worse than a moron… oh wait… i get it… you think that the opposition had no right whatsoever to announce policy intentions regarding an asset that the state has majority ownership of dont you.

      Yeah, theres some rather unsavory words for people who have that view of democracy


      national didnt win you moron – they didnt get over 50%. The coalition won – and all the coalition won was the mandate to from the govt

      exactly how many times does this have to be pointed out to people like you?


      I see that you think that NZ power was the only thing that affected the share price – so pushing multiple assets of the same nature onto the market at roughly the same time didnt have any effect? – treasury thinks it did

      over valuing the asset to talk up the expected gain didnt have an effect?

      but keep going – please

    • Mike S 5.3

      So if labour had announced their policy after the sales you’d be happy? Announcing before the sales was the responsible thing to do, it allowed people to factor the Labour policy into their decision whether to purchase or not.

    • Make no mistake , the losses being incurred by “mum and dad ” investors is a direct result of green/labours threats to interfere in the electricity market.

      Rich, I believe the Labour-Green opposition gave fair warning of their intentions. What your mythical “mum and dad” investors did afterward was of their own volition. It’s called taking responsibility which, I understand, right wingers are pretty Big on.

      Anyway, if anyone interfered with the “electricity market”, I believe it was the Nats. How moronic is it to flood a small share market like New Zealand’s, and express surprise when the price of shares drops.

      The more there is of an item, the lower the price. (Eg; powerco shares.)

      The less there is of an item, the higher the price. (Eg, housing in Auckland and Christchurch.)

      FFS, man, that’s Free Markets Economics 101: supply and demand. Do we have to draw you a pretty picture with bright crayons to explain it?! (And why on Earth do we leftists have to explain this simple thing to neolibs like you in the first place?!)

  6. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 6

    On the one hand, the Government does have a duty to be a good steward of public wealth. That should have meant not selling the assets in the first place.

    Doesn’t being a good steward of public wealth require you to sell the assets in certain circumstances? If you knew the assets were bullshit, or you could make a better return elsewhere, or someone was willing to pay considerably more than they were worth, for instance.

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