Why First NZ Capital wants you to keep paying too much for power

Written By: - Date published: 6:48 am, May 1st, 2013 - 35 comments
Categories: assets, capitalism, energy - Tags: , ,

A couple of people have questioned this series of posts outing the financial interests of supposedly ‘independent’ commentators who are coming out against the Green/Labour plan to lower power prices. ‘Everyone has links to everyone in New Zealand’. Maybe so, but not everyone is paid by the people whose interests they’re protecting while pretending to be independent in the msm.

First NZ Capital added its opposition to NZ Power last week with a stunningly bad analysis claiming that, if you exclude lines charges, power is rising at ‘only’ 2.6% above inflation. The report was lapped up by RNZ and others.

That central claim (not backed by any data or even source) turns out to be wrong – if you exclude lines charges, retail prices have risen even faster in the past 15 years – which confirms that its wholesale prices that are the problem.

It also wouldn’t be OK if it were true – what justification can there be for increasing the price of power generated from free water on decades old dams that cost less and a cent a kilowatt hour to run at any rate, let alone twice the rate of general price increases?

Honestly, this piece of analysis was so crap that it literally asks ‘how can you work out the historic value of dams we built a hundred years ago, we don’t have the records?!’ as justification for charging the power from those dams as if they’re expensive thermal peaking plants.

So, what’s First NZ Capital’s game? Well, they’re one of the companies in charge of selling Mighty River.

As a ‘joint lead manager’, they get $666,666 guaranteed for doing, well, not a hell of a lot. They get up to a further $1,333,333 based on ‘performance’ – ie. how many people and institutions they can get to buy shares in Mighty River.

On top of that, they get a slice of 0.2% of the take from retail investors, 0.4% of the take from institutional investors, and 0.8% of the take from overseas institutional investors (yes, they make more for selling to foreigners than ‘mums and dads’). Assuming a 3rd/3rd/3rd division between those classes of buyers and the joint lead managers are getting a $5,000 slice of every million the government gets from the sale.

If the shares sell at the top of the government’s range, that’s a $9m kitty for the joint lead managers to divide up. Reduce the share offer price by, say, 70 cents as has been suggested and that pool shrinks by $2m.

So, it goes like this: First NZ Capital makes money for bringing in buyers for Mighty River both through the bonus it can get from Treasury and because the more interest there is, the more investor money going into buying Mighty River shares, the larger the slice for First NZ Capital and the other joint lead managers.

Clearly, First NZ Capital doesn’t want anyone being scared off buying Mighty River shares. Hence, its rubbish attack on NZ Power. Because anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that a plan for cutting power prices by tackling the generators’ super-profits will lower the value of Mighty River. First NZ Capital has a multi-million dollar incentive to make people ignore or discount NZ Power by framing it as unworkable.

Actually, this post is somewhat misnamed. First NZ Capital doesn’t care if you ultimately end up continuing to pay too much for power or not. But it does care that plenty of ‘mum and dad’ investors believe that you will continue to pay too much for power. Because if it can convince them that you will, then they will buy into Mighty River, and First NZ Capital will make out like a bandit. If its shrill attack on NZ Power later turns out to be baseless and the ‘mums and dads’ lose their shirts when power prices are brought down, it won’t matter to First NZ Capital – it will have pocketed the millions and washed its hands long before then.

35 comments on “Why First NZ Capital wants you to keep paying too much for power”

  1. IrishBill 1

    I was particularly pissed off at the unchallenged run these corporate wideboys were given on RNZ. Now I know they had a $9m undisclosed conflict of interest I’m furious. Why the fuck is this only coming out now on TS? Did nobody in the MSM bother to ask?

    • tc 1.1

      RNZ has become part of the NACT spin machine under Griffin, morning report/9-noon/mora are soapboxes, Mary Wilson appears to be the only one who does what is required being question and probe armed with facts and research.

      Hooton, DPF etc all given a free run, you gotta hand it to the hollowmen it’s a slick operation.

      • Ruobeil 1.1.1

        Just like Campbell is part of the Labour spin machine.

      • aerobubble 1.1.2

        i thought moro remit was to pull in stupid rightwingers and expose them Since their statements are often as absurd as they are abuse of common sense. NR does have a duty to offer both left and right wing stand points. That the right is no longer gifted with kudos for growth and their fiscal nouse is laughable, so of course stacking the ranks with stupid right winger might actually suggest NR are doing us all a service. Imagine a Joyce, or a English, or Brownlee, actively engaging the real concerns of the business world, it would be deeply disturbing because they might actually go on and manage the economy for all NZ. It ain’t going to happen, they’ve spent to long in their metaphorical fish bowl having money thrown at them to show their naked neo-liberalism..

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      That would require them to question their Lords and Masters and their own beliefs.

    • Paul 1.3

      Maybe Eddie could email his research to several news outlets, particularly RNZ, Campbell Live and the ODT as these are the last vestiges of independent mainstream media in the country.
      Challenge them to ask these shills questions about conflicts of interest.

      • Ruobeil 1.3.1

        Campbell independent? Yeah right.

        • Paul

          Just to get an understanding of where you stand on issues? What news sources do you see as the most reliable?

          • McFlock

            National party press releases, obviously.

          • Murray Olsen

            WhaleSpew presents the facts and lets Rube make up his own mind. Alex Jones is also fair and balanced. Anything on talkback radio is above any suspicion of bias.

  2. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 2

    Strange that my broker at First NZ Capital advised me against buying Mighty River Power shares after the Labour/Greens announcement, then.

    • lprent 2.1

      Were they First Capital? Otherwise what relevance does that have to the post? Should I move this one to OpenMike as being off topic?

      Edit: ha – I see the comment was updated to show it was First Capital.

      The whole point of Eddie’s posts is that power prices are excessive and there are a lot of greedy bastards giving crap advice against a policy that is designed to regulate and curb that behaviour.

      At least you had a moderately honest broker. Most of the ones I and the family have run across seem only to be interested in pushing junk with good commission values. Which is why the NZX looks irredeemable to me. Anyone with any sense treats it as being an incestuous bearpit designed to fleece “mom and dad” investors.

      • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 2.1.1

        Not updated. Always referred explicitly to First NZ Capital. Which makes your haughty tone a little offensive.

        • lprent

          Well either my eyesight is going because I explicitly looked for something after “my broker” because the comment made no sense in terms of the post, or you made an edit that your fast approaching senility has dropped out of memory.

          I could check in the comment edits log, but there hardly seems a point.

          • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell

            If those are the two options, your eyesight is going.

    • Lightly 2.2

      Gormless. They want your custom to continue, so they have an incentive to advise you against a bad deal. But they don’t have an ongoing relationship with all the other ‘mums and dads’ and they make more money if those saps buy in. Hence, different advice to a client then to the public in general

    • Shaz 2.3

      Hi, Ex Ole,

      Perhaps you are one of the high rollers who is being privileged by being given the @real oil@ by your broker? That would make sense. As I recall share market brokers have a proud tradition of encouraging small independent investors while protecting others from risk.

      Oops see I have made the same point as lightly.

  3. vto 3


    car dealers

    real estate agents

    believe them with utmost care

    • King Kong 3.1

      You left anonymous blog commentors and politicians off your list

      • McFlock 3.1.1

        that’s why linking to sources and/or having a coherent train of thought makes the posts on this site so informative.

      • Murray Olsen 3.1.2

        How did your parents choose the first name King?

  4. tracey 4

    Its not about nz being small, its about declaring your conflicts of interest so that the information you impart can be properly weighted. Hiding a conflict leaves wide open the suggestion you are trying to skew the debate

    • vto 4.1

      It actually puts First NZ Capital in breach of the Fair Trading Act – misleading and deceptive conduct in trade.

      Very clear (provided there was no teency tiny fine print somewhere declaring their massive gigantic overweight conflict of interest).

  5. prism 5

    . ‘Everyone has links to everyone in New Zealand’
    But everyone doesn’t pay my bills. And I don’t want to be in a position that I have to beg for that aid from the wealthier persons of my acquaintance.

    Knowing or being related to lots of people doesn’t mean that you as an individual shouldn’t be your own person. We’re not like the golden haired children in John Wyndhams science fiction story The Midwich Cuckoos. They knew everything that each other experienced or thought. There was a 1960 film version called Village of the Damned (sequel called Children of the Damned).

    I think some people commenting have in mind –
    “Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world,” (from Wikipedia)
    which is just an interesting concept. And might be tested by NZs hanging around in Piccadilly Circus for long enough.

  6. DH 6

    First NZ Capital were one of the consultants the Govt used to value the SOEs. Another was Macquarie Group, also a joint lead manager for the share float.


    Interesting they’ve removed the Mighty River valuations, can get the 2010 ones here;


    The valuations are quite useful because they include forward projections which can be compared against actual performance in the 2011 and 2012 annual reports.

  7. muzza 7

    Eddie – Very good series, which needs to be distributed to every/any MSM outlet you can deliver the work to. It matters not if it ends up on the wire/print etc, of course that would be fantastic, but whats matters that people who work in such establishments read/comprehend such angles, and who knows, perhaps even begin to consider some rather straight forward thinking.

    What you are illustrating in this series, is that who controls the money/funding, controls the narrative, controls the resources, controls the outputs!

    Same applies to any/every industry going around, and its important for people to have commentary into such goings on!

    Really good work Eddie, appreciated, and do your best (and everyone on here) to distribute these articles, and others to the MSM emails addresses, which are easily obtained.

    Much more proactive than simply commenting!

  8. geoff 8

    That central claim (not backed by any data or even source) turns out to be wrong – if you exclude lines charges, retail prices have risen even faster in the past 15 years – which confirms that its wholesale prices that are the problem.

    Wholesale prices are the main problem but lines companies played a part too. The bogus asset revaluations that allowed the gentailers to up their prices were apparently also adopted by the lines companies for a while. But then regulation for the lines companies came in that stopped them from continuing the upwards revaluations that the gentailers got away with.

    Geoff Bertram talks about it all in the 2nd half of this audio:

  9. Dave 9

    Their real inflation figure nett of line charges seems about right. I got 3.2% PA using a simplistic quick calculation, and the MBIE figures don’t include prompt payment discounts etc. CPI inflation over the period 2000-2012 was 39%.

    They do give their source (“based on Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment pricing quarterly surveys”, the same monthly surveys you link to) and their rationale for the increases: gas prices went up 5.6% PA over inflation, more expensive generation methods were added to the grid, and several other reasons.

    In context this was a Credit Suisse research note for Contact Energy and how the proposed reforms would affect its share price, not a piece of punditry on the reforms in general.

  10. aerobubble 10

    Look National run out shouting that we have the fourth fastest growth…


    …haven’t National noticed, the world economies are in huge strife carrying huge debt woes…

    …didn’t National have to go reassure world banks about the heavily indebted NZ economy…

    …you know, the 2nd most after Greece.

    A pickup in the global economy will leave NZ standing, having the huge private debt, and growing government debt Key is running up, STILL to deal with. Without major revision to our tax incentives then our pirot victory of fourth fastest growing (off the back of CHCh rebuild) is just that, a false reassurance.

    National suck at economics.

  11. SomeSuch 11


    Taking a shorter length of time (5 years) suggests:

    CPI + 2.4% (Stats NZ)
    Line charges +6.1% (CPI adjusted = 3.7%) (MED)
    Retail non-line charges +4.4% (CPI adjusted = 2.1%) (MED)

    Retail based on market share.

    Taking the longer view (13 years) suggests:

    CPI +2.6%
    Line charges +9.7% (+7.2%)
    Retail non-line charges +7%(+4.2%)

    Of course non-line charges now comprise a larger share of a residential power bill (62% v. 52%).

    So while First Capital’s maths may or may not be right (can’t tell without data sources or method) the general thrust of their argument in the recent term is correct. Power prices have slowed considerably relative to inflation.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Meh, first give consumers back $500M in excess power profits and we can talk.

    • aerobubble 11.2

      Power prices have slowed, well, duh, power demand has as many cut their energy use in the face of a global wide depression.

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