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Nats clueless on privatisation consequences

Written By: - Date published: 11:01 am, September 7th, 2011 - 17 comments
Categories: bill english, david cunliffe, david parker, energy, national, phil goff, privatisation - Tags:

This year, the government made Meridian sell some dams to Genesis, which funded the purchase by borrowing. Meridian then paid a special dividend to the Crown. It made both Genesis and Meridian worth less. A government couldn’t make those kind of reforms if it had to consider private investors’ rights. Pretty simple, eh? Tell that to Hekia Parata.

Hon David Parker: Could steps like the requirement to sell those assets from Meridian Energy to Genesis Energy have been taken if Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy had been in partial private ownership; if so, how would the Government have achieved that?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is not the situation we have, and speculating on what might happen under what is proposed does not seem to me to be a reasonable question.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister then now giving notice to anyone considering buying shares in these companies if they are sold that National might, for market reasons, intervene, with repercussions on the value of shares?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister then now admitting that following the privatisation of shares in Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy, the Government’s ability to intervene in the market in order to get better prices is to be constrained?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No. [Laughter]

National can’t have it both ways. Either potential investors in electricity companies have to know that purchasing shares in these companies comes with the risk that the government will, as it frequently does, use its legislative ability to drastically reform the industry and stuff their share price; or future governments wouldn’t be able to intervene, as National has, in the interests of the public because they would have to consider the rights of private investors and we really will not own our future.

Meanwhile, Bill English thinks that the fact that markets are plummeting worldwide is a good reason to be trying to sell assets on to those markets. Crazy. He also admits that at least 20-30% of what he wants to sell would go overseas.

Finally, Goff smacked the issue of foreign ownership home with English admitting there would be nothing to stop foreign buyers snapping up all the shares after an initial float.

17 comments on “Nats clueless on privatisation consequences ”

  1. tc 1

    Send in the trolls……the share price may suffer but the return will still be healthy and aren’t investors in share markets meant to take a long term view anyway so prioce irrelevant ?…cue the trolls.

    • aerobubble 1.1

      Investors returns have been exceptionally high in the US, so much so
      the US has been printing money to keep up with expectations of
      investor… what did you say… long term view.

    • freedom 1.2

      methinks tc ignores the barb!
      if Assets are sold, the public must forfeit the protection of their government’s power to control pricing.
      It is not rocket science. Why sell what you already own and is of benefit to all ?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    …or future governments wouldn’t be able to intervene, as National has, in the interests of the public…

    Nat8ional didn’t intervene in the interest of the public. What they did was intervene to prop up/hide their own mismanagement of the economy – it was all about getting that $520m special dividend. The public will be worse off due to the government mandated restructuring.

  3. randal 3

    This gutting of our country is beocming too painful to bear. We are just becoming organisms to be squeezed dry and then tossed away till the next bunch of simpletons comes along. Why dont they turn off the teevee staions and close down all the other energy extravaganzas and let people become self reliant instead of erecting more and more gilded palaces of sin.

  4. Olwyn 4

    I would actually like to see some honesty here, rather than an ongoing PR fairytale that no one believes. Does National think that any good whatsoever will come to NZ from selling these assets? If so, what is this good, and what is meant by the term NZ? The people who live in it, some of the people who live in it, approval from people who do not live in it & only care if it sinks into the sea insofar as they have a few dollars invested in it – can someone who actually knows enlighten us all?

    And if we are using the government to reduce government, why? What good,in plain terms, would result and who would it be good for?

    In the absence of anything more than fluff, smiles and lavender ties, it is hard to get away from the idea that the age of capitalism is more or less over, and that what we have in its stead is neo-feudalism with a business facade. It is a bit like the song about the man who cannot mend his roof when it is raining and does not need to when it is not raining. Give us tax cuts and assets, cry the international rich, so we can invest in things and create jobs, followed by, now that we have what we want, we do not need to do anything that creates jobs. We are doing quite well as it is, so suck on that, peasants.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      I think (muted) public acceptance for asset sales isn’t that they will any good to NZ, just that they’re the “least bad” option we have at the moment.

      • Campbell Larsen 4.1.1

        “(muted) public acceptance for asset sales”
        “the “least bad” option we have at the moment.”

        Don’t believe the spin. The majority of the public don’t like AS at all, and they are quite possibly the very worst option that we have.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.2

        I think its clear that people favour a CGT and a higher income tax rate when they are presented as alternatives to asset sales.

        Pah, Labour should just announce a renationalisation programme with compensation equalling cost less 10%.

        • freedom 4.1.2.1

          +1
          and deduct the ‘wiring and maintenance’ payments, both residential and commercial, that have been paid to these companies for say the last five years. It allows the companies to escape with a modicum of good faith that the money was actually spent on wiring and maintenance, even though the reality is certain to be no better than Kiwirail discovered when it looked in the shed.

  5. HC 5

    One other aspect with legal significance should be thrown into this debate!

    As far as I am informed the FTA with Mainland China has provisions that ensure, that investing companies or individuals from either country that is part to the FTA (which obviously includes NZ as that “other” party), must be treated in the same way as investors are treated that are native to the other country. This basically means that NZ cannot legislate to treat any investor from China differently to any investor locally in NZ.

    If that is true and not dependent on any particular conditions, then this means, that Chinese investors cannot be disadvantaged when shares in companies for sale are being offered to the public and market. So all this talk about 10 % caps for overseas investors is nonsensical, because it could and likely would be challenged before the courts. So once again we get government smart talk and propaganda, which will prove to be as hollow and the Prime Minister and his fellow ministers are themselves when it comes to honesty and integrity.

    If a National led government would offer 49 % of energy companies for sale, then companies or other investors from Mainland China at least could claim, that they have a right to be treated as a NZ investor, who the P.M. likes to cosily refer to as “mum and dad investors”.

    What a joke all this is!

  6. feijoa 6

    Thanks for that HC. Globalised free trade smacks us again.Perhaps Cunliffe should ask Blinglish about that too

    • HC 6.1

      Trusting that this does not breach any copyright rules, because it is simply an excerpt of text form the FTA between Mainland China and New Zealand, which can be viewed and downloaded free of charge from the following website page ‘http://www.chinafta.govt.nz/1-The-agreement/2-Text-of-the-agreement/12-Chapt-11-Investment/index.php’ , a view at the following will hopefully clarify what asset sales of NZ assets means:

      Article 137 Scope

      1. This Chapter applies to measures adopted or maintained by a Party relating to:

      investors of the other Party;
      investments of investors of the other Party.

      2. This Chapter shall not apply to measures adopted or maintained by a Party affecting trade in services.

      3. Notwithstanding paragraph 2, for the purpose of protection of investment with respect to the commercial presence mode of service supply, Articles 14210, 143, 144, 145 and 148 shall apply to any measure affecting the supply of a service by a service supplier of a Party through commercial presence in the territory of the other Party. Section 2 shall apply to Articles 142, 143, 144, 145 and 148 with respect to the supply of a service through commercial presence.

      4. For greater certainty, the provisions of this Chapter do not bind either Party in relation to any act or fact that took place or any situation that ceased to exist before the date of entry into force of this Agreement.

      5. This Chapter shall not apply to:

      subsidies or grants provided by a Party; or
      laws, regulations, policies or procedures of general application governing the procurement by government agencies of goods and services purchased for governmental purposes and not with a view to commercial resale or with a view to use in the production of goods or the supply of services for commercial sale.

      6. This Chapter shall apply to all investments made by investors of a Party in the territory of the other Party, whether made before or after the entry into force of this Agreement, but Section 2 shall not apply to any dispute or any claim concerning an investment which was already under judicial or arbitral process before the entry into force of this Agreement.

      Article 138 National Treatment

      Each Party shall accord to investments and activities associated with such investments, with respect to management, conduct, operation, maintenance, use, enjoyment or disposal, by the investors of the other Party treatment no less favourable than that accorded, in like circumstances, to the investments and associated activities by its own investors.

      Article 139 Most-favoured-nation Treatment

      1. Each Party shall accord to investors, investments and activities associated with such investments by investors of the other Party treatment no less favourable than that accorded, in like circumstances, to the investments and associated activities by the investors of any third country with respect to admission, expansion, management, conduct, operation, maintenance, use, enjoyment and disposal.

      2. For greater certainty, the obligation in this Article does not encompass a requirement to extend to investors of the other Party dispute resolution procedures other than those set out in this Chapter.

      3. Notwithstanding paragraph 1, the Parties reserve the right to adopt or maintain any measure that accords differential treatment to third countries under any free trade agreement or multilateral international agreement in force or signed prior to the date of entry into force of this Agreement.

      4. For greater certainty, paragraph 3 includes, in respect of agreements on the liberalisation of trade in goods or services or investment, any measures taken as part of a wider process of economic integration or trade liberalisation between the parties to such agreements.

      5. The Parties reserve the right to adopt or maintain any measure that accords differential treatment to third countries under any international agreement in force or signed after the date of entry into force of this Agreement involving:

      fisheries; and
      maritime matters.

      Article 140 Performance Requirements

      The Parties agree that the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures are incorporated mutatis mutandis into this Agreement and shall apply with respect to all investments falling within the scope of this Chapter.

      Article 141 Non-Conforming Measures

      1. Article 138 does not apply to:

      any existing non-conforming measures maintained within its territory;
      the continuation of any non-conforming measure referred to in subparagraph (a);
      an amendment to any non-conforming measure referred to in subparagraph (a) to the extent that the amendment does not increase the non-conformity of the measure, as it existed immediately before the amendment, with those obligations.

      2. The Parties will endeavour to progressively remove the non-conforming measures.

      3. Notwithstanding anything in paragraph 1, Article 138 shall not apply to any measure, which with respect to each Party, would not be within the scope of the national treatment obligations in any of that Party’s existing bilateral investment treaties.

      Article 142 Transfers

      1. Except in the circumstances envisaged in Article 202, each Party shall grant to investors of the other Party the free transfer of all payments relating to an investment, including more particularly:

      amounts necessary for establishing, maintaining or expanding the investment11;
      returns from investments, including profits, dividends, interests and other income;
      royalty payments, management fees, technical assistance and other fees;
      proceeds obtained from the total or partial sale or liquidation of investments, or amounts obtained from the reduction in investment capital;
      payments made pursuant to a loan agreement in connection with investments;
      amounts necessary for payments under a contract, including amounts necessary for repayment of loans, royalties and other payments resulting from licences, franchises, concessions and other similar rights;
      earnings and other remuneration of personnel engaged from abroad in connection with that investment;
      payments made pursuant to Articles 144 and 145; and
      payments arising out of the settlement of a dispute.

      2. The transfers referred to in paragraph 1 shall be made without delay in a freely convertible currency and at the prevailing market rate of exchange applicable within the Party accepting the investments on the date of transfer. In the event that the market rate of exchange does not exist, the rate of exchange shall correspond to the cross rate obtained from those rates which would be applied by the International Monetary Fund on the date of payment for conversions of the currencies concerned into Special Drawing Rights.

      3. In the case of China, the obligations in paragraph 1 shall apply provided that the transfer shall comply with the relevant formalities stipulated by the present laws and regulations of China relating to exchange control provided that:

      these formalities shall not be used as a means of avoiding China’s commitments or obligations under this Agreement;
      in this respect, China shall accord to investors of New Zealand treatment no less favourable than it accords to investors of any third country;
      the formalities shall be effected within such period as is normally required for the completion of transfer formalities. The said period shall commence on the day on which the relevant request has been submitted to the relevant foreign exchange administration with full and authentic documentation and information and may on no account exceed 60 days;
      transfer formalities relating to an investment shall in no case be made more restrictive than formalities required at the time when the original investment was made; and
      to the extent that these formalities are no longer required according to the relevant laws of China, Article 142 shall apply without restrictions.

      4. Notwithstanding paragraphs 1 and 2, a Party may prevent a transfer through the equitable, non-discriminatory and good faith application of its laws relating to:

      bankruptcy, insolvency, or the protection of the rights of creditors;
      issuing, trading or dealing in securities, futures or derivatives;
      criminal or penal offences;
      financial reporting or record keeping of transfers when necessary to assist law enforcement or financial regulatory authorities; or
      ensuring compliance with orders or judgments in judicial or administrative proceedings.

      5. Nothing in paragraph 3 shall affect the free transfer of compensation paid under Articles 144 and 145.

      6. Neither Party may require its investors to transfer or penalize its investors that fail to transfer the income, earnings, profits or other amounts derived from or attributable to investments in the territory of the other Party.

      7. In the case of China, the obligations in paragraph 6 apply only to the extent allowed by the relevant laws and regulations of China relating to exchange control, provided that paragraph 6 shall apply without restrictions to the extent that these laws and regulations no longer apply under China’s law.

      Article 143 Fair and Equitable Treatment

      1. Investments of investors of each Party shall at all times be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy the full protection and security in the territory of the other Party in accordance with commonly accepted rules of international law.

      2. Fair and equitable treatment includes the obligation to ensure that, having regard to general principles of law, investors are not denied justice or treated unfairly or inequitably in any legal or administrative proceeding affecting the investments of the investor.

      3. Full protection and security requires each Party to take such measures as may be reasonably necessary in the exercise of its authority to ensure the protection and security of the investment.

      4. Neither Party shall take any unreasonable or discriminatory measures against the management, maintenance, use, enjoyment and disposal of the investments by the investors of the other Party.

      5. A violation of any other article of this Chapter does not establish that there has been a violation of this Article.

      Offering shares/assets like electricity companies for sale in NZ should according to this not disadvantage any investors from Mainland China, because according to the China NZ FTA they are supposed to be treated in the same way as investors in NZ.

      Any feedback on this would be welcome! H.C.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        Lots on the protection of the rights of the foreign “investors” and fuck all on the protection of the rights of non-investor “citizens”.

        In other words a fancy document written by investors gifting each another lots of protections and benefits, and giving the citizens and the government very few protections and benefits.

        What a farce.

        • HC 6.1.1.1

          Also have a look at a letter or official statement that was agreed upon in addition to the FTA between Mainland China and NZ. This is for entry of professionals from Mainland China to NZ to be able to work here. It is in a sense OK, but presuming that the NZ signer of it also signed the FTA, we have a bit of a problem.

          http://www.chinafta.govt.nz/1-The-agreement/2-Text-of-the-agreement/20-Annexes/0-downloads/skilled-workers-side-letter.pdf

        • HC 6.1.1.2

          CV – It is the lack of response here, the repeated hypocrisy I have experienced with Labour, the denial of past mistakes, past wrongdoings, the arrogance of always being right, the failure to listen to the really poor, namely beneficiaries, the lack of defence of the poor and downtrodden and cheated in this society, the hesitation to do bring about the necessary revolution we need in our economy, society, technological and environmental development, why I WOULD NEVER EVER VOTE LABOUR AGAIN!

          I did this a few times in the past, but my vote will go somewhere else for sure. And the developments in other comparable countries proves that new parties or formerly fringe parties will become stronger and more reliable parties, which will change the political landscape (also in NZ) very, very profoundly.

          I will welcome that day we get rid of lies, power hunger, the stuffly old and rotten “old boys” or “old sister’s network”.

          Get this country turned inside out and rebuilt from scratch, maybe even join joint ventures with some progressive companies to establish a sustainable, progressive, environmentally friendly and socially more cohesive society than we have had for nearly 3 decades now.

          I am very frustrated, angry and looking forward for REAL change. That is where I come from, and if this rocks the atmosphere on this website and blog, the better so, as it is exactly what NZ needs.

  7. Very good to see that Labour have exploited the obvious contradiction in the National Party’s stance on this – as I urged them to do here.

    The idea that a 49% sell-off of shares maintains the level of decision-making control the government currently enjoys is just rubbish. Having John Key sing this toxic lullaby into the public’s moist little ears is almost too much to bear.

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