Selling asset sales to [insert region here]

Written By: - Date published: 11:09 am, February 13th, 2012 - 19 comments
Categories: national, privatisation, spin - Tags:

Not everyone in the Beehive is thrilled that National is throwing away its chance at a third term for the sake of asset sales which make no sense, economically or politically. The Standard has obtained a copy of the generic column that National MPs are meant to add some ‘local flavour’ to and have published in their regional papers. It shows how cynical and shallow their position really is.

Here’s the column:


[ the date says 2011 but it’s a typo. It was sent out last week]

Should I bother rebutting the points? We’ve done this all before and they seem to have no new lines … OK, what the hell.

‘National is working hard at lifting national savings’

Actually, ‘national savings’ as measured by the country’s net international investment position is projected to worsen from $137b to $197b between 2011 and 2016. Selling the profit streams of highly profitable companies offshore will only worsen this trend.

We’re extending the mixed ownership model – under which Air New Zealand currently operates …

Air New Zealand had to be majority purchased by the government to save it from collapse, which would have led to the loss of regional flights in New Zealand. That was the government buying into a failing privatised company, which is far different from the government selling shares in highly successful publicly-owned companies.

Mixed ownership is a win-win for New Zealand

It’s easy to create ‘win-wins’ if you only count one side of the equation. Real life is more complicated. You’ll note there is no mention of the lost returns, which far exceed the government’s cost of borrowing.

New Zealanders will get to invest in big Kiwi companies

We already own these companies via our government. And why can’t the vaunted private sector provide these big companies to invest in? Why are the big companies on the stock exchange either ex-state assets or companies that got big thanks to sweetheart arrangements with the government (like Fletchers, which built the first state houses).

We would rather pay dividends to mum and dad investors than interest on higher debt to foreigners.

Whoa, a xenophobic argument for asset sales – someone call Fran O’Sullivan!

First off, the Nats’ own estimate is that 10-15% of the companies, 20-30% of what is sold, will end up in foreign hands and there’s nothing to stop that number being higher. Most of the shares bought domestically will be grabbed by institutional investors. Second, mum and dad already own these companies and most can’t afford $4000 per household to pay again for what we already own – and if we all do buy our shares in our companies, isn’t that just a poll tax? Third, it makes sense to take on a little extra debt when the alternative is selling assets that have a higher rate of return than the cost of capital, especially when we’re talking $6 billion and the government had already borrowed $50 billion- it’s drop in the ocean stuff. Anyway,we end up with higher debt when we sell high returning assets offshore and have to borrow to fill the hole caused by the foregone dividends.

The government gets to free up $5-$7 billion

Actually the net revenue could be a lot less. Key himself reckons some of the valuations are too high. Take away bankers’ fees and incentives for ‘mum and dad’ to invest and you see why Treasury has booked only $3.86 billion. NSW sold part of its electricity assets recently (and is about to sell the rest) and there’s questions over whether it pocketed any net revenue.

… to buy new assets such as schools and hospitals

Actually, the revenue is booked to fund the normal new capital spending allocation, which National has cut in half and renamed the Future Investment Fund. It won’t buy new schools the billion over five years for education is just $250 per year per school kid.

There’s no doubt about these companies remaining overwhelmingly in New Zealand control.

Minority shareholders have rights, including the right to sure if the company doesn’t act in their interests, ie to maximise profits. Currently, SOEs have to consider the impact on the community of their actions, after privatisation they won’t.

New Zealanders … will be at the front of the queue

National still had no policy to achieve this and any such policy would be a costly subsidy for the few ‘mum and dad’s who can afford the shares from the rest of us.

… Have a strong appetite for shares. Kiwi investors have about $100 billion during in term deposits.

Um. That shows we don’t have a strong appetite for shares. In fact, the business community is always complaining that we don’t invest enough in shares to make them big profits playing the stockmarket.

Strengthen the New Zealand economy.

Treasury says productivity gains will be marginal at best. And we acutely end up poorer because our profits flow offshore and we have to borrow to fill the gap.

Either National needs to magic up some stronger arguments, or it needs to listen to its staffers and drop this policy before it gets them slaughtered in 2014.

19 comments on “Selling asset sales to [insert region here] ”

  1. Karl Sinclair 1

    Could this historic document highlight the root cause of what is happening in NZ today…

    At least this guy was ‘honest’

    So long, suckers. Millionaire hedge fund boss thanks ‘idiot’ traders and retires at 37:

    The boss of a successful US hedge fund has quit the industry with an extraordinary farewell letter dismissing his rivals as over-privileged “idiots” and thanking “stupid” traders for making him rich.

    Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say good- bye.
    Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.
    There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list of those deserving thanks know who they are.
    I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such as ma l l war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.
    So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don’t worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer’s company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.
    I haveno interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a
    strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for
    some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and
    waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health,
    which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my
    entire life – where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and
    assets under management – with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May
    meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.
    On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft’s near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

    • Bored 1.1

      Truly beautiful. hope he sent a copy to Max Keiser and agrees to be interviewed. Just love that Russian TV allows Max to blow the cover of the Wall St banksters (not to mention how their world news is at total variance to CNN).

    • muzza 1.2

      Classic for sure…not sure about the reference to Soros though

      “George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, ”

      I guess he is not clear on where Soros fits into the scheme of things….

      An entertaining read, even if it meant the writer made a fortune at others expense!

  2. johnm 2

    despite National’s rubbish agenda the self interested sheople who believe the likes of Shonkey look after their interests will vote him in again. young people should leave for Australia.

    All the logic and reasoning refuting National just doesn’t influence their supporters who vote automatically for their class interest not for the greater good of the commonality of all New Zealanders.

    We are a divided society between those comfortable well orf and/or rich and poorer NZ on low wages and benefits slaves to the landlord accommodation economy and not least 250.000 children living in Poverty.

    This latter underclass don’t exist to the well orf!

    we came here to not be Prisoners of the Motherland POMS. But we have now recreated here the conditions of that wretched land, our early reformers and social leaders would be turning over in their graves at what is happening here now with our Playboy, I like being liked, PM. When is his next Hawaiin holiday due?

    • Blighty 2.1

      “When is his next Hawaiin holiday due?”

      He’s looking like he wished he’d never come back.

  3. vto 3

    I suspect the sale of assets has now become about saving face for these fools.

    • tc 3.1

      Yup vto.
      Alot like many business who pick the wrong system, throw millions at it, doesn’t cut it everyone hates it yet the ego’s behind the decision can’t make the tough call as that would be admitting they got it wrong so they plough on saddling the business with a poorly implemented costly ‘not fit for purpose’ system.

      Reminds me of that line Tua’s opponent had years back….’you gotta have alot more than one punch and a bad haircut…..’ replace bad haircut with smile and wave and here we are.

  4. Bored 4

    Key is just doing as he is told by the international banksters. To stay in power he needs to bribe the electorate (tax cuts etc), to get the money to deliver he has to talk to the banksters….

  5. muzza 5

    Eddie that document is a re-send of one they did last year for sure….

    Nikki Kaye used much of it in a cut an paste email response!

    Many simple people will fall for the shit in the document, there are so many flaws in
    there it is beyond rediculous.


    • muzza 5.2

      Below is an extract of Nikki Kayes response to my email which posed many parts, one about asset sales. Note the cut an paste from Nikki, the tell tale symbols, are as they were in her reponse, I had to laugh at the effort! The reply was back end of last year…compare!

      Thank you for your email. I appreciate you taking the time to update me with your concerns.


      Economic management


      The last three years have been tough for New Zealand with the global financial crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, Pike River and Rena. I take on board your comments, however I believe that National is working hard to build a more competitive economy based on exports and higher savings, helping create sustainable, higher-paying jobs.


      We’ve already taken a number of steps – including getting on top of debt and returning to surplus faster. We’ve undertaken the largest tax reform in 25 years, invested heavily in productive infrastructure, been responsible economic managers, and made the public sector more efficient.


      For the latest information about Treasury’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update for 2011 please visit and


      Mixed ownership model


      If re-elected in November, we plan to extend the mixed-ownership model to four energy state-owned enterprises and reduce the Government’s shareholding in Air New Zealand, while keeping a majority stake in all of those companies.Â


      The mixed-ownership model is another step in building a faster-growing economy and reducing our heavy reliance on debt borrowed from foreigners.


      It’s a win-win because it gives New Zealanders more investment opportunities, and helps to grow our assets. New Zealanders get to invest in good Kiwi companies and the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – about 3 per cent of its assets – over three to five years to buy new assets such as schools, hospitals, and ultra-fast broadband, without having to borrow from overseas lenders. We would rather pay dividends to New Zealanders than interest on higher debt to foreigners.

      Importantly, the Government will keep at least 51 per cent control of these five state-owned companies – the same model used successfully for Air New Zealand and the Port of Tauranga for many years.

      The Government will use the proceeds from the mixed-ownership model to set up a Future Investment Fund of up to $7 billion to pay for new infrastructure without extra borrowing. Through the Fund the public can be assured the proceeds of mixed ownership are not being lost. They will be used to buy new assets for New Zealanders, and to upgrade and modernise our existing assets.

      To ensure the widest possible spread of shareholders, we intend setting a maximum shareholding cap – likely to be 10 per cent.

      There is no doubt about these companies will remain overwhelmingly in New Zealand control. We expect that New Zealanders will own at least 85 to 90 per cent of these companies. The Government will keep at least 51 per cent control on behalf of all New Zealanders and then other New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for shares.. Kiwi investors have about $100 billion sitting on the sidelines in term deposits. And there are tens of billions of dollars invested by other New Zealand investors from KiwiSaver providers to the NZ Super Fund, ACC, Government Superannuation Fund, and iwi.


      National’s mixed-ownership model gives Kiwis a fantastic opportunity to invest in this country’s future, particularly with the shine having come off investment housing and finance companies.


      It’s a smart policy that will strengthen the New Zealand economy. A stronger economy is the only way we will create jobs, boost incomes, and provide the high-quality public services you and your family need.


      How will we ensure fair value is achieved?

      The first thing to remember is that the Government is under no pressure to sell minority stakes in these companies by a certain deadline. In addition, it is not compelled to sell all 49 per cent of each company in one tranche. If re-elected, the Government will take market conditions and other factors into account – including the results of independent scoping studies of each company – before proceeding, to ensure that New Zealand taxpayers receive fair value.

      These companies have already been under a fair bit of market scrutiny and analysis, including published analyst reports – –  so both Government and the market already have well-formed ideas about value.


      Maintaining reasonable electricity prices

      Demand is growing steadily, and the available sources of new supply (essentially wind and geothermal generation) are inevitably more expensive than the largely hydro system we have at present. The current system is about ensuring that this new supply gets taken up with a timing and composition which balances what New Zealand can physically produce with current demand. We do believe that competition between both generators and retailers is helpful in ensuring this.

      Also, National implemented electricity sector reforms which have constrained price increases to 13 per cent in the past three years compared to 72 per cent price hike under the previous government.

  6. DH 6

    The Air NZ claim really infuriates me, it’s such a brazen lie. The taxpayer bailed out a failed private company, it’s the complete opposite of these privatisations, and they think we’re all so stupid we can’t see that. It’s bad enough we had to bail out Air NZ, now they twist it into a justification for thieving our assets!

    The other big lie is that the SOEs will have access to more capital. If they did raise any capital the Govt would have to pony up 51% of it and I’d love to see them try & explain their way out of that one. What they really mean, but refuse to say out loud, is an increased share price will permit the SOEs to borrow more which isn’t raising capital at all. They’ll load them up with debt so they can pay out higher dividends and/or buy in to overseas ventures which will inevitably go titsup. Guess who will end up footing the bill for it.

    • tc 6.1

      Also AirNZ is in a competitive environment whereas power generators are natural monopolies.

      So air NZ needs a commercial/private edge to keep it real whereas a bunch of strategically shaved chimps could manage a power generator as the engineers and maintenance crews keep the power ticking over, management just need to let them do their jobs by enabling them and not getting in the way.

      • DH 6.1.1

        It’s the way they invert the truth that pisses me off. Air NZ can (possibly) be used as an example to show that public investment in a private company can be beneficial to the business. It does not, in any shape or form, show that private investment in a public company can be beneficial.

  7. Alma Rae 8

    Love it. May you regain your health. No-one ever went broke overestimating the greed and stupidity of others – but I’m glad you stopped when you did. Please contact Max Keiser!

  8. s y d 9

    These guys are so lazy…..but then the sun paper is a relentless cheerleader for Bridges and our long lost friend Bib printed without question

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