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Why Brian Gaynor wants you to keep paying too much for power

Written By: - Date published: 7:45 am, May 2nd, 2013 - 34 comments
Categories: capitalism, privatisation - Tags: , ,

To say Brian Gaynor is excited about the Mighty River sale is an understatement. Of his last five Herald columns, two have been about how great it will be, and two have been about how awful NZ Power is. His other media appearances have been in a similar vein: Mighty River = good, NZ Power = bad.

As with First NZ Capital, Gaynor doesn’t care if you do actually keep on paying too much for power or not. But he wants potential investors in Mighty River Power not to worry about what a correction in electricity prices will do to the company’s value. It’s in his financial interests that investors aren’t scared off Mighty River, and that’s the root of his opposition to NZ Power.

So, what skin has Gaynor got in the game?

Well, Gaynor works as executive director and headfor an outfit called Milford Asset Management – they manage investments for people with $300,000+ to invest and have pretty successful Kiwisaver and PIE setups. Gaynor heads their investments sections. The company notes that its workers own shares in the firm – Gaynor’s the largest shareholder, owning 24% of Milford.

Here’s how they describe their approach to investment:

  • active portfolio management; we do not follow a “buy and hold” approach

That’s interesting because it’s the direct opposite approach to what he recommended for ‘mum and dad’ investors, in this column on Mighty River. In fact, he wants the Government to make a big song and dance about the looters’ bonus to keep mum and dad in if they buy.

How does an outfit with a quick in and out approach win if mum and dad investors are persuaded to ignore NZ Power and put heaps of money into Mighty River, then hold on to those shares?

Well, the more investors there are to start with, the more over-subscribed the float will be. That means large pension funds and the like here and in Aussie that are required by their rules to hold a certain amount of their assets in blue-chip shares won’t be able to get all the shares that they need in their pre-float allocations. After the float, they will come in and buy up to get to those levels (that’s why there’s always a wee surge after these floats).

If ‘mum and dad’ are convinced by, say, a kindly looking gent with a grey beard that the future of Mighty River is secure and they shouldn’t worry about NZ Power, then they’ll buy more shares and hang on to them harder. That, in turn, forces the post-float share price surge higher as those funds try to acquire their mandated investment levels.

Who wins then? Well, an ‘active portfolio manager’ that doesn’t follow a “buy and hold” approach, of course. Maybe one that the same kindly looking white-bearded gent works for. Presumably, what will happen is Milford Investments will have its allocated slice of the Mighty River shares at the float and, not looking to hold them long, will wait until the post-float bounce seems to be hitting its peak, and sell out.

Basically, it seems like Gaynor’s engaged in a version of pump and dump. Reassuring investors to increase demand before dumping Milford’s own shares quickly post-float.

A guy who works for a business that will profit if you believe his advice that NZ Power won’t work and that power prices, and the excessive profits they create, are here to stay, because that advice will encourage you to buy and hold Mighty River shares while his business does precisely the opposite, is the last guy that you want to be listening to about NZ Power. Especially when he makes no mention of his business’s plans around Mighty River or its policy of only holding stocks short-term.

Ultimately, Gaynor doesn’t care if NZ Power comes in. Milford Asset Management will be long out of the Mighty River stock by then. Opposing NZ Power for Gaynor makes financial sense because it means more short-term profits for Milford Asset Management.

34 comments on “Why Brian Gaynor wants you to keep paying too much for power ”

  1. Yorick 1

    Thanks for that, Eddie.

    I had wondered who this self-important economic savant was who had suddenly
    popped up in the NZ media. I can see why Brierley had no time for him ..

    We need more critical populist economics in this vein.

    Perhaps you can explain to us who this fella John Key is ..

  2. One Anonymous Knucklehead 2

    From an investment perspective MRP looks like a good buy if you ask me. NZ Power will still leave room for profits to be made, population growth will help demand. If they manage to avoid having a bunch of debt-happy wingnuts on the board future prospects look good.

    Once the Greens’ home insulation policy reaches saturation point let’s subsidise the installation of wind and solar-based domestic power generation.

    • vto 2.1

      I like the way the investment gurus make no mention about how NZ Power effectively guarantees profits for the generators.

      I like the way Brian Gaynor encourages collective ownership in his very own business yet espouses an entirely different creed when it comes to investments which he earns a commission from.

      I like the way Mighty River Power intends to pay out over 100% of profit to its shareholders in the future. Dont the government and investment advisers listen to their own advice? Or does Gaynor earn commissions on the trade of shares.

      I like the way that debt is intended to ramp way way up shortly, in order to pay out over 100% of profits. Dont the government and investment advisers listen to their own advice? Or does Haynor earn commissions on the trade of shares.

    • Yorick 2.2

      So you advocate a long-term buy and hold strategy for the Mums and Dads of the nation ?

      Would the closure of an aluminium smelter in Bluff have any impact ?

      Interesting timing .. the hunters are out there chasing the stags.


      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.2.1

        No. I’d advocate that Mum ‘n’ Dad get out on the streets and get rid of this crap government, and failing that, donate the share float cash to the left wing political party of their choice.

    • Colonial Viper 2.3

      Yeah but these capitalist privateers don’t want a steady return over time, they want a reliable risk free oversell and price ramp on launch, which enables them to make a quick one day 15% pump and dump profit.

      Then they can go on holiday the rest of the year having achieved a whole years returns for the fund in just one day.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.3.1

        Yep, looks good from the pump ‘n’ dumper perspective too, if you can stomach it.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    You gotta admire these capitalist commentators for unashamedly pushing for even more profits for their moneyed constituencies.

    • geoff 3.1

      In for a penny in for a pound!
      They’re like deranged killers on a shooting spree, once you’ve shot 5-6 people you may as well try and kill as many people as possible and break the record, right?

  4. Paul 4

    Excellent series, Eddie.
    You’d never make the msm…you do too much research and don’t just repeat the company line!

  5. RJLC 5

    Strange, a year or so back I believe Gaynor was saying there was poor economic justification for the sale.

  6. grumpy 6

    I suppose energy prices have to come down…..otherwise the backlash from the Labour/Greens Carbon Tax will incur a permanent voter backlash………? Cynical – much?

    • millsy 6.1

      Didnt National keep a revised form of the ETS?

      • felix 6.1.1

        Yep under National’s ETS we all pay more except for the polluters who all pay less.

        Yet another National govt tax rise.

        • grumpy

          So I take it that the Labour/Greens Carbon Tax will have no effect on energy prices?

  7. QIKB 7

    “Well, Gaynor works as executive director and head for an outfit called Milford Asset Management – they manage investments for people with $300,000+ to invest and have pretty successful Kiwisaver and PIE setups. Gaynor heads their investments sections. The company notes that its workers own shares in the firm – Gaynor’s the largest shareholder, owning 24% of Milford.”

    A conflict of interest here, perhaps ?

    What is his record and background in Ireland ? There have been some interesting times there recently ..

    [lprent: I believe he discloses the Milford linkage at the bottom of his articles – at least he has when I have read his columns. ]

  8. Nick 8

    Why New Zealand Businesses and Power Users want to keep paying too much for power: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10881118

    Wait aren’t these the very people who were meant to benefit from the plan, employing 5000 more people because of lower prices etc?

    • karol 8.1

      And an excellent quick and assertive response to the open letter by the Green Party:

      “The Greens make no apologies for wanting to get power prices down to a fair level. Business New Zealand and National seem to think that electricity companies’ profits matter more than lower power bills for families and businesses….

      “It is a shame that Business New Zealand and National want to protect the broken electricity market, which has led to massive power price rises. Families and businesses are welcoming our plan for change that will fix the broken system and replace it with a proven system that will deliver lower power bills.

      “Hyperbolic claims about capital flight and wealth destruction do not impress us or add nothing to the debate. NZ Power will lead to a wealth transfer from the electricity companies who have been making excessive profits to families and businesses who will pay less for power. It will create wealth by removing what is effectively a stealth tax on the economy, leading to healthier families and more jobs.

      “The Greens are a democratic party and we won’t have our policy choices dictated to us by big business. We will make our policy choices based on what is best for New Zealand, its people, its economy, and its environment. NZ Power fits the bill,” said Mrs Turei.

      • Nick 8.1.1

        Yes but don’t you see that the whole premise of this bizzare series of attacks on anyone who opposes NZ Power has now been laid to ruins? You can say that anyone who opposes the idea must have some sort of sinister selfish reason to do so only up to the point where the very people who are supposed to benefit from the policy say they oppose it.

        It’s all very well to assert that NZ Businesses want to ‘protect the broken electricity market’, but if they are the people who will benefit from it being fixed why the hell would they do that? Answer: NZ Power will make it worse

        • karol

          Say what?

        • lprent

          NZ Power will make it worse

          Unlikely and it can hardly get worse than the rampant power price inflation has already made it. There isn’t a sound economic reason for the price rises that we’ve had since Bradford broke up the sector.

          Eddie is simply pointing out that the more vocal supporters of the current government’s asset sales plans have good reasons for supporting it and for opposing NZ Power. To date it has been hard to find a articulate and knowledgeable supporter who does.

          What this whole debate is steadily clarifying for me is how good the case is for shutting down the NZ stock exchange. The whole power selloff exercise appears to be being done purely for the benefits of broker’s commissions in defiance of any economic benefit for NZ.

          And the NZX will at the end of it will still be completely useless at providing it’s primary function – distributing capital for economic benefit of our society. We’d be better off raising capital in aussie where the market is bigger and the brokerage system is a lot less incestuous.

        • Mary

          I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes working out a line-by-line critique of your comment to show how non-sensical it is. I thought that dissecting it and then commenting on each element would be useful for the purpose of pinpointing precisely why what you’re saying is illogical and, in this case, likely to be ideological driven. I stopped at the point where I realised that not only is what you say completely illogical, probably not worth responding to although of course I have anyway and definitely ideologically driven, but written by someone who doesn’t have a single clue about what they’re talking about. Sorry about that but it just turned out that way. Cheers anyway.

          • Nick

            You must feel so clever, having published a 7 line comment which fails to make a single argument

            • geoff

              It’s all very well to assert that NZ Businesses want to ‘protect the broken electricity market’, but if they are the people who will benefit from it being fixed why the hell would they do that? Answer: NZ Power will make it less beneficial for them than owning the shares of cartel power companies


            • Mary

              Funny that. I thought my comment said precisely the same thing about the meaningless words you posted.

    • Lightly 8.2

      Check who are members of Business NZ

      Mighty River

      All five!

  9. anon 9

    Milford Asset offer a premium product for investors with over 300K, but the minimum amount required to invest in their PIE funds is 10K.

  10. Poission 10

    the obvious problem here is that the inverse commentators on Power NZ policy are Turkeys ie What do you think of XMAS?

    Business NZ has proved that it is driven by factions without thought to the greater good of its members eg higher prices reward a small group and disenfranchise the producers( people who make and sell things)

    NZ is one of the only countries in violation of Rosenfeld’s law .


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