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Time for Nats to front up over lost dividends

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 am, November 5th, 2011 - 69 comments
Categories: privatisation - Tags:

Labour’s fiscal strategy takes National’s projections and adds or subtracts money for its policies. The clever thing is they alter the Nats’ projections to remove all the dividend revenue from assets they want to sell. How much is taken off National doesn’t affect if Labour gets back to surplus in 2014 – but it makes National’s projections more accurate. The Nats are complaining.

It’s totally dishonest of the Nats to have booked the revenue from asset sales (which, by the way, they don’t have a mandate for) but not the lost dividends. By Labour’s sums, $800 million of returns would be lost in the first four years and $11 billion by 2026.

English is complaining it’s too much. He reckons it’s $400 million in the first four years.

Well, let him produce the real numbers. Because, so far, he has resolutely refused to be up front with Kiwis about the cost of selling our assets.

It’s interesting that the Nats are only disputing $400m out of four years worth of budgets that total $300 billion. And not disputing Labour’s own numbers but how much Labour has pinged National for over the loss of dividends.

Labour has fronted up and said ‘National would avoid $3.6 billion of borrowing over the next four years for capital investment by selling assets, but we’re not going to sell those assets – so, yup, we’ll have to borrow $3.6 billion more than them to pay for those schools and hospitals but we’ll keep our assets and, in the long run, we’ll be a lot better off as a result.’ All National is arguing that Labour would have to borrow $4 billion more, not $3.6 billion.

That’s a pretty far cry from the $17 billion (or was it $14 billion, or $18 billion, or $11 billion) that John Key was saying during the week.

National has conceded that Labour’s numbers and Labour’s path to surplus are solid. All the Nats are whining about is being called out on how dishonest they have been with New Zealanders about the cost of their own asset sale plans.

Labour has put up an impressive set of numbers. National’s one angle of attack is now blocked and their momentum is stopped.

Now, let’s see Labour go after National over exactly how much we stand to lose in dividends if National sells our assets.

69 comments on “Time for Nats to front up over lost dividends”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    I’d also like National to explain why, if the average dividend from the power companies is $300m, how they will manage to sell them for $5-7b. This would work out to a dividend of ~$150m on a sale price of $5-7b, or 3% to 2.1% return.

    Why would anyone pay such a large amount of money for such a low rate of return – I can get a 3.4% interest rate at Rabo right now.

    Either their sale price is highly inflated, or their reported dividend of $300m is low-balling the real dividends. Or both.

    • The dividend the companies pay is different to their earnings.
       
      The power companies have been reinvesting heavily and their worth has been going up considerably.  A considerable part of the earnings is retained rather than paid out.
       
      National’s analysis ignores this and tries to paint them as having a low return so that the loss is minimised.
       
      You are right Lanth, they are trying to low ball the real dividends because the decision does not look as stupid as it otherwise would.

      • Hami Shearlie 1.1.1

        By the time the kiwis wake up, our assets will be owned by overseas interests, and John Mon-Key will be sunbathing in Hawaii! Loyalty to country is not a trait I would bet on with the smiling simian!

    • Tom Gould 1.2

      This question has been asked before, a number of times, along with the one about booking the sale money and the post-sale dividends. Seem the Tory claim over the past few days is that the ‘hole’ in Labour’s numbers is $14b, and $11b, and $6b, and $1,6b. All claims are correct, simulaneously, it seems. Similar to their asset sale scam, which switched overnight from paying debt to funding election bribes. But there is not a single journalist, financial or political, who is allowed to touch it. The instruction is to re-elect Key. And that is what they will do. Outside the MSM, however, there is hope.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      It’ll be both. Inflate the sell figure for the masses to make it look like we get a lot of money if we sell and deflate the income both to make it look like we’re not really losing a lot and to also push down the sale price. When we don’t get as much as expected they’ll just say it was the market that no one would pay so much for so little return.

    • TighyRighty 1.4

      Errr, wouldn’t that just be the return on the ~50% of the powere companies they are planning to sell instead of th whole lot?

  2. Jester 2

    Quick question. The Labour projected initial dividend of $800m. Will this be used to reduce debt or allocated for future policy? Not sure from the fiscal release the other day?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      What a silly question. The fiscal release shows how a Labour-led government will pay down debt, year by year. Black numbers indicate pluses, red numbers denote minuses.
      Clear now?

      • Jester 2.1.1

        Its not as silly as you would presume.

        Im just looking at three seperate media releases stating that Labour “expect” to use in totality the retained dividends for 1) Investment back into SOE regeneration. 2) Future policy initiatives. 3) Debt reduction.

        Im not interested in the muddy waters of spreadsheets, but confused when 3 seperate ministers are trying to get electoral traction from the same block of capital.

        As a voter I think I should be informed on what is more important to labour when they make the decision to retain assets. Reinvestment(Goff)? Policy(Chauvel)? or Debt (Cunliffe)?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1

          Well you answered your own question – three of their priorities are: 1) Investment back into SOE regeneration. 2) Future policy initiatives. 3) Debt reduction.
          What “muddy waters”? If you’re on Windows, go to Labour’s spreadsheet, then click “start (the start menu usually at the bottom left of your screen) -> all programs -> accessories -> Calculator”. That will bring up a calculator, and you can use that to check Labour’s sums. If you’re a little bit more internet and technically savvy, find a copy of “open office” and use it to recreate the spreadsheet yourself. It’s not difficult, it’s just time consuming.
          While you’re doing that, you will notice that Labour’s policies are costed line by line. So please, stop being so lazy and do some reading.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2

          Im not interested in the muddy waters of spreadsheets, but confused when 3 seperate ministers are trying to get electoral traction from the same block of capital.

          That “block of capital” is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars per year which means that it’s possible to do all three with them.

          • Jester 2.1.1.2.1

            Thanks for that. It clear to me now that with all reputable commentators suggesting that the global economy is a long way from recovery a future labour govt has based part of its fiscal package on:

            A divend projection that is akshully three times more than treasurey projects.

            A 2.5% return when over fund lifespan is only returning 0.5% against cost of borrowing and YTD is akshully -11.75% the cost of borrowing.

            That bit seems abit reckless to me. But i do like the idea of keeping SOEs NZ owned. I do think its odd that we borrow offshore so we can retain SOE ownership then use the dividends to bolster a risk based investment fund that only invests 17% in New Zealand and 87% offshore for so little return or in this years case for a 11.75% loss. But i guess it will all come out in the wash.

            Clear as mud now. Cheers

            • Puddleglum 2.1.1.2.1.1

              So, your “quick question” at 2, phrased so innocently, was a set-up? You already knew your line of attack.

              As for NZSF performance, as you point out, in the middle of a prolonged recession the fund is still at 0.5% over the risk free rate of return, which is impressive.

              Your 11.75% ‘loss’ is also misleading. It’s for the July, August, September months in the 2011/2012 (June to June) year to date. The return for the full 2010/2011 year was +22.16%.

              Also, your figures of 17% investment in NZ and 87% invested offshore makes a remarkable 104% being invested. Truly impressive. In fact, as at end September 2011 the fund had 21% invested in NZ. (Not sure where you got the 17% figure?).

              As for the decision not to include the NZSF super fund in the net debt calculation for budget 2008, that was because the fund was being ‘set aside’ for pre-funding superannuation.

              As John Key has noted, we live in extraordinarily volatile times and it therefore makes sense to now see the fund as potentially accessible, given the extraordinary economic environment (you know, the worst global economic conditions in 80 years that Key keeps reminding us as justification for his government’s poor performance?).

              I’m surprised you don’t agree that the NZSF should, now (in these present dire, unprecendented circumstances), be included as part of the net debt calculation. Or are the circumstances not that dire and John Key is misleading us? 

        • Puddleglum 2.1.1.3

           when 3 seperate ministers

          Have you had a premonition, Jester? 

  3. freelunch 3

    James the $400 million is the first of some dodgy assumptions underpinning Labour’s package – and btw since the dividend losses are greater outside the first four years they have overestimated revenue by more from 2015/16 onwards. That said, the foregone revenue from mixed ownership is less than projected so they are either knowingly misleading the public or simply inept.

    They have also changed their accounting treatment of the Superfund from how they did when last in Government. They now include it within the net debt calculation when they didn’t before – why is that?

    The claim that the Fund will earn 2.5% above the cost of government borrowing is sham. Over the life of the fund it has only returned 0.5% over the cost of government borrowing. The 2.5% is its performance target over a time weighted 20 year period. Eight years in its nowhere near achieving that. Its performance YTD in 2011 is significantly worse than the cost of government borrowing. In fact YTD it’s -11.75% against the cost of government borrowing.

    http://www.nzsuperfund.co.nz/files/Fund_performance_to_30_September_2011.pdf

    I’m also curious as to people’s opinions about Labour maintaining National’s public service expenditure control and implications for jobs and maintaining the tight control on core health/education/justice expenditure which Labour etc has been saying leads to public service cuts. Why are Labour enacting tax cuts, the biggest part of their package, when allowing the above to occur?

    Teachers and nurses can’t be happy.

    [I’m not sure how much more clearly I can say this: the dividends don’t affect Labour’s fiscals, they affect National’s. And on the Superfund, Labour always used net debt including the NZSF. James]

    • freelunch 3.1

      Sorry James but Labour didn’t include the NZ Superfund when last in government as evidenced in the following quote from Budget 2008…

      “Financial assets of the NZS Fund are excluded from the calculation of net debt as they are set aside to partially pre-fund the future cost of New Zealand Superannuation.” Budget 2008

      http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/forecasts/befu2008/befu08-pt4of9.pdf

      And sorry the assumption about foregone dividends do effect Labour’s financials. Treasury’s estimate is $300 million foregone to the government at total implementation of mixed ownership. Not the $900 million that Labour is suggesting.

      http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2011/supp2010is/b11-supp2010is.pdf

      Treasury goes on to state:

      …no significant ongoing impacts are expected on the operating balance from extending mixed ownership, with the impact of foregone dividends and retained profits being offset by lower interest expenses from reduced Crown borrowing. P. 25

      • mik e 3.1.1

        Thats the same argument nick smith used on the ACC fund as well the market will recover long term investment is not for the faint hearted
        WE know how accurate treasury is being the round tables publicly funded mouth piece
        The whole time National have been in power the Treasury have over estimated all figures related to Nationals policy and this is no different Underestimated Labours figures FACT
        Energy is the new Gold
        Renewable energy is the new diamond investment returns on the energy companies have been going up for ever since I can remember.
        Freelunch for Nationals corporate mates coming their way after the election
        Corporate Cronieism[welfare]

      • KJT 3.1.2

        National/Treasury forgot/lied about the re-invested dividends that will now go to private shareholders.

        The costs of readying assets for sale. Like NZRC. $300 million spent on it before being sold for 300 million. 300 million profit made by new owners after sale.

        And the cost of restoring asset stripped SOE’s to public ownership and functioning levels, after National say, “we are too far in debt, have to sell them totally”.

        14 billion a year. Plus the costs of restoring Air NZ and Rail.

      • In Vino Veritas 3.1.3

        freelunch 1, James 0. Nice work freelunch. Have a look at the late Roger Kerrs blog and his series on privatisation and loss of dividends. It pretty much demolishes Labours current arguments around asset sales and makes this thread moot.

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.3.1

          Kerr and his types made lots of profits from privatisation of state assets.

          And the loss of dividends to the tax payer occured because the dividends went straight into the pockets of private investors, like himself.

          No wonder he liked privatisation and the loss of state dividends.

          He made himself richer with them.

          • In Vino Veritas 3.1.3.1.1

            Colonial, I know our beliefs are different, but couldnt you just read Kerr’s series? You may be enlightened.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Ah, look at that, another RWNJ parroting C/T lines with absolutely no understanding of what he’s saying.

  4. Salsy 4

    I like Phil’s Merril Lynch calculator retort. I can just imagine it – It takes pension funds, taxes, govt savings, state assets, working peoples homes and investments and magically passes them on to the rich.. The Greek calculator might just do some wonky maths, but wonky and purposely decietful are worlds apart.

  5. Rijab 5

    National are holding the narrative on this issue, whether Labour’s figures are correct or not. Labour must find a way to retake the narrative of the election and get the focus back on who has better policies for our future; there is simply no point in continuing to throw mud over figures with the NATs. Each day that this argument continues is another day National retains 50% + in polling, people simply don’t and won’t believe Goff and Cunliffe over Key.

    …this is exactly what Lord Ashcroft was here for, and to be honest right now Key is pulling things off quite well with his stupid ‘witticisms’ that the media are crediting him for.

    • Tigger 5.1

      Hard to change a narrative that the MSM are driving. They’ve already declared National the victor. And they should be ashamed for their part in such an undemocratic display.

      They like to crow that they are free and fair but they’re not, they’re slaves to their corporate masters.

      • handle 5.1.1

        Labour won the first few days in most media coverage. Then they decided they could afford to stuff around over the figures when it was obvious the Nats were preparing to attacking those. Foot meet gun.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      Labour must find a way to retake the narrative of the election…

      That’s a little difficult when the MSM don’t want that to happen and so ensure that it won’t.

      • Rijab 5.2.1

        so true …

      • TighyRighty 5.2.2

        Maybe if labour had something interesting to say, the media would publish it. Oh wait, the media do publish the interesting things labour says, it’s just that labour then goes and fucks it up. Every time. Without fail. So the media reports that too. It humours me no end that you see a media conspiracy when the media call it how they see it when labour don’t get it right and then the media magically become fair and balanced when it’s positive for labour, and the media are still just calling it as they see it.

        • RedLogix 5.2.2.1

          Labour has had all the interesting things to say. At least a dozen significant policy releases, from the introduction of a CGT, to raising the retirement age, to improved employment law, to the ChCh insurance and rebuild situation .. specific details on tax reform, elimination of GST on fruit and vege, no asset sales… right down to doubling funding for DOC (one that’s definitely got my vote.)

          Yet the well-paid hacks in the media have done nothing but sneer at any Labour does, while ignoring the fact that National has done almost nothing except give them nice fat tax cuts. Oh wait…

          • TighyRighty 5.2.2.1.1

            Really? I remember positive sentiment from the “well paid hacks” at the general thrust of most labours policies. It’s when the details get examined that the “sneering” as you eloquently put it starts. So going back to my earlier line of reasoning, labour fucks it up.

            You can’t get angry at the media when all they are doing is reporting what labour are doing and if neccessary pointing out why labour are getting it wrong.

            Have you read Lew’s post yet?

            • Colonial Viper 5.2.2.1.1.1

              Meh. Political parties make mistakes, National AND Labour.

              The MSM gloss over National’s, and focus on bs trivia around Labour’s.

              • TighyRighty

                Pardon? Phil Heatly vs Chris Carter. One resigned his cabinet position and did a mea culpa to the public in th media, one whined and told the media to piss off, which by extension is the voting public of new Zealand, and stop picking on him just because he’s gay.

                Maybe the media are going to be a bit more favourable to people who don’t view them as the enemy. Berating the media for reporting your fuck ups and general poor performance as it happens isn’t going to win you any friends.

        • Colonial Viper 5.2.2.2

          Yeah if your theory was right, when Key fucks up he too would get a hammering. But no, when he changes his numbers on Labour’s funding shortfalls from $17B to $16B to $14B back to $15B he gets a frakin pass, just another billion dollars up and down as he pleases.

          • mik e 5.2.2.2.1

            CV just Google merrill lynch toxic derivatives

          • TighyRighty 5.2.2.2.2

            You think that’s a fuck up the media should publish and comment on? Take your hand of it and try getting out in the real world.

            • Colonial Viper 5.2.2.2.2.1

              Oh a billion dollars up and down from day to day is no problem now? Just small cheese?

              You sound like one of the global bankster occupiers, just like John Key is.

              • TighyRighty

                Spare me from your stupidity. I’ll tell you why John Key didn’t fuck up with changing the amount he believed labours policies would cost th country. They aren’t national party policies.

                • KJT

                  That “show me the money” comment was in itself a lie. Key knew that Labour policies were costed within an inch. Unlike his borrow and hope.

                  • TighyRighty

                    An inch? If they were that finely costed, why did phil founder completely? How come he had nothing at all, not even approximate numbers? He didnt need I be spot on as it was a debate, but he needed something. you’d think that if they had costings that were within an inch he would have had some idea. But he didn’t, so they arent.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      It was work in progress and Phil doesn’t like to make shit up on the spot like Key does.

                    • TighyRighty

                      No, Phil just wants to whack it on the bill like in 2009. He’s had three years to get it right. Three weeks foot from a collection and phil can’t bring up any of the details on any of his costs in a debate? If you think that’s a good sign, nope, no need to say it. We already know how much of an idiot you are.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Key shifted his numbers back and forth like a yoyo. The MSM did not pull him up on it, the good ol lap dogs that they are.

                  They should have questioned him at length where his numbers were from and why he was shifting them at will.

                  A billion dollars up one day, a billion dollars down the next. Not a trivial matter, when it comes from the mouth of the NZ PM.

                  • TighyRighty

                    These aren’t the numbers for nationals policy, they are for labours policy. so why should John Key have to know more about labours policy costings than labour itself does? The media might question why John Key was a billion up or a billion down on alternate days about his own policies, but not the oppositions.

                    Idiot.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      So you’re saying that the National PM is enabled by the MSM to make billion dollar numbers up and not be held to account for what comes out of his mouth?

                      And that it is OK that he makes those numbers up even though he doesn’t know the details of Labour Party policy?

                    • TighyRighty

                      The prime minister spoke at the same debate as phil goff and had a better grasp of labours figures than phil goff did. You can call that enabling i guess. Phil was also enabled by the msm to show he did had the costings, but instead the public was enabled by the media to see that phil goff didn’t know shit about how much his policies would cost.

                      Seeing as labour managed to make most of their numbers about their own policies up, I’d say yes, it’s fine for John Key to have a guesstimate about how much labour party policies would cost the country. We should borrow trillions to invest in the super fund if you follow labours logic.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Typical moronic right-wing bullshit.
                  Key was claiming there was a problem with Labour’s costings. It is up to him to make his case, but when he started lying about the figures, it was obvious he didn’t have one. That being the case, the “news” was in fact: “New Zealand Prime Minister caught in a lie.”

                  • TighyRighty

                    He didn’t have a case? Yes he did, labour are going top borrow more than national over the next three years. There is no lie there, labour themselves admitted it. The question is by how much, John Key shouldn’t have to know more about labours policies than phil goff, but he does.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      John Key needs to be held to account for making up numbers that he didnt actually know.

                      Most honest people, when they don’t know shit, keep their mouth shut.

                      The MSM needs to pay attention and question Key on the billion dollar numbers he keeps uttering.

                    • TighyRighty

                      Phil Goff needs to be accountable for the fact that John Key knows more than phil goff about the costs of labours policies.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      John “Billion Dollars Up One Day, Billion Dollars Down the Next” Key

                      Boy our PM is a real financial speculator

                    • TighyRighty

                      What’s a billion when labours got the cheque book? Only an extra billion in debt would almost be a relief if labours in power.

    • marsman 5.3

      Key has turned the election campaign into a circus so he won’t have to front up to the real issues. If in doubt act the clown. He needs to be stopped in his tracks, wherever he goes people should chant ‘show me the jobs son, show me the jobs’ and ‘ stop lying to us’.

    • Hami Shearlie 5.4

      Maybe Labour should be publicly asking questions about National’s involvement with “Lord”(grubby bought-and-paid-for title ) Ashcroft. He’s decidedly dodgy, seemingly avoiding paying his tax by living anywhere else. The Tories in the uk are rapidly distancing themselves from him! Even the business people in the uk are apparently aghast at his business practices! Mon-Key sure looks shifty when you bring up the name of Ashcroft, noticed that?

  6. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    Akshully I think this strategy might akshully rebound on Brand Key. Labour’s figures are solid. The area in which Brand Key’s figures are dodgy is the most unpopular of their policies – asset sales – if the narrative focuses on the dishonesty implicit in their numbers, on top of the bankruptcy of their ideas, this will be a plus for Labour.

  7. Hilary 7

    Economist on RNZ this morning predicting the collapse of global capitalism by 2014 – ie during next parliamentary term. Commentators should be asking parties about their policies for this.
    I would be prepared to bet that if things get really tough and messy that Key won’t stick around.

  8. mik e 8

    He’ll get his old job back
    Toxic derivatives salesman @ Merrill Lynch
    Merrill Lynch’s $74 trillions in US dollars of Toxic Derivatives ,Now the BOA’s Toxic Derivatives could cause this Melt down because their ashcually worth Zilch.
    Bank of America are trying to foist them onto the US taxpayer either way this ponzi scheme Which Jinxed Key hand in as the Currency trading arm of ML was deeply involved in this Ponzi SchemeThis $74 trillion US will be the biggest loss in financial history We johnny Will have to take a $5 million dollar hair cut while the rest of us take a hair cut with him.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      ML is holding $74T of potential derivative liabilities? Where did you get that figure?

      It seems large – I might have accepted a figure 1/4 that…

  9. Hami Shearlie 9

    If he stays in Govt he’ll be scalped by the public, so no haircut needed- savings: $5 million! The blind trust will be ecstatic!

  10. One Anonymous Bloke 10

    National’s Johnkey figures are a good attack line for Labour, but a better one is “show me the jobs”. By all means run both of them, but until the meeja hire someone who can do sums, they’re just going to run he said she said stories on the costings.

    It’s high time we had genuinely independent media on the BBC model (and I bet we can improve on that), especially since it returns a profit to the taxpayer.

    • Hami Shearlie 10.1

      And, what constitutes a “job” according to National – how many hours a week? I heard Paula Bennett say recently that there will be jobs available doing housework etc – to help old people to stay in their homes – but National has savagely cut the hours for home help for the elderly? Mary Wilson really got Paula on the ropes on Checkpoint the other night – that needs to happen more often to National MPs, notice many of them turning up to public meetings to debate? Very, very few! Especially not Paula!

  11. randal 11

    hey micky s. its typical national party behaviour to sell the states assets after the re-investment has gone in so the oiks wont have to pay for that . If there is any fat they will slice that off and keep it for themselves.

    • In Vino Veritas 11.1

      randal, you may recall that Phil Goff has sold over $9 billion of assets. Key has yet to sell any.

  12. Tombstone 12

    Tell me Key is not planning on selling Air New Zealand assets …. !

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  • Further measures to support businesses
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