Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cullen's move on Auckland Airport has far reaching effects

http://www.portfolio.com/images/feeds/news-markets/national-news/reuters/2008-02-25T042807Z_01_NOOTR_RTRIDSP_2_BUSINESS-AUCKLANDAIRPORT-OFFER-DC.jpg
A cynical move by Michael Cullen to gain votes in the 2008 Election by
blocking an Auckland Airport sale will have far reaching effects.




Michael Cullen's move today to put a stop to a partial sale of Auckland International Airport(AIA) to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board(CPPIB) has more far reaching effects than putting the brakes on this deal.

Below is the piece of legislation that has been changed, in relation to the airport merger, and it is sufficiently vague enough to cause major uncertainty, for investors, domestic and international, and business in New Zealand.

"Whether the overseas investment will, or is likely to, assist New Zealand to maintain New Zealand control of strategically important infrastructure on sensitive land."


Who decides what is "strategically important" and on what basis do they apply the new legislation?

Is the Warehouse(WHS) a strategic asset?

Business and investors need certainty, you only have to look at current market conditions to figure that out, and the new legislation leaves everyone guessing.

This uncertainty, apart from the retrospective legislation passed today, and mooted tax changes, means that foreign investors will be thinking twice before looking at putting their capital in a country that treats foreign investors like Putin's communist Russia treated foreign oil companies over the last few years.

It also means that private property rights don't mean anything in this country anymore(just like in Putin's Russia) and with the stroke of a retrospective pen your property isn't really yours anymore.

I own Auckland Airport shares, they belong to me and nobody else and in a free country I should be able to do what the hell I want to do with them.

Contrary to Labour party spin the Airport isn't a state asset, it is privately owned, by many individual Kiwis and and some bigger institutions and the playing of the "we cant sell such a "strategic asset to a foreign buyer" card makes no sense because it is already owned by 40% of off shore investors.

It seems to me that Labour playing this card in election year will be appealing to the paranoia of those people who think the National party are going to sell "strategic assets" and Labour will try to get votes from it.

Cullen mentioned that other countries have similar laws to prevent strategic assets from "going overseas"-although you would have to have pretty big container to fit the Airport into it and ship it off- they may well do or not but their laws were in in place before any important deals were being negotiated and to change conditions of a deal as it is being done is like playing the shell game with a blindfold while on crack.

The immediate affects of Cullen's finger in your pie has been enormous. Billions of dollars have been lost from the capital value of Auckland Airport and therefore shareholder's pockets. The NZX's other companies plunged in value today because of the uncertainty that Cullen's pen stroke brought to the market.

Other companies who may be deemed "strategic" by Cullen and his communist misfits will be wringing their hands in the hope they wont be next. The listed power companies, ports and others will clearly be affected.

The interest still in the wings by Australia's Origin Energy for its sister company Contact Energy(CEN) would seriously be in doubt under the new criteria. Similarly other foreign companies will consider our country's barriers too hard to negotiate. Takeovers and mergers, an essential part of successful capitalism, will prove too cumbersome to consider.

As I have canvassed before in previous articles, Cullen's move now appears to be arrogant in the extreme. His party and lapdogs in crime, Winston "Baubles" Peter's NZ First, made their feelings clear when takeover talks were mooted with Dubai Aerospace Enterprise almost 9 months ago and they were staunchly against any sale.

To move now is unlawful(it was but they will change that law) immoral and is a clumsy attempt at gaining votes from voters who think capitalism is a dangerous thing.

The cost to CPPIB and Auckland Airport shareholders has been many millions-on top of the couple of billion in lost capital for Auckland Airport shareholders.

I have been a very impassioned advocate for not selling my shares over the last 9 months, because I could see the investment as a good long term one.

I was tempted, when news first broke of a sale all those months ago, to sell at the market price that day of around NZ$3.65 but decided not to. Now I think those people who sold were wise beyond any education one could buy.

Given the interference over the last few weeks I am now going to give two ticks for the deal, it may send a message to Labour what the real owners of this asset want to do with their property but I doubt whether Cullen will listen or care.

I know this deal isn't going to happen and have said so for many months now but the interference by politicians in private property issues has me questioning my holding in such a company mired in political dead weight and sticky fingers.

I sold my Port of Tauranga shares a few years back because I couldn't contend with local Auckland politicians and Winston Peters(again) interfering in merger proposals with Ports of Auckland. That deal was ended after months of expense for Port of Tauranga.

Business needs certainty in New Zealand, especially now as the proverbial is hitting the fan hard.

That means overseas investment is needed. Today's approach by by the extreme left wing business haters in Labour and NZ First has been another nail in the coffin for NZ INC because that much needed capital is going to dry up.

The move today is reminiscent of a much troubled National Government, led by Robert Muldoon, who in its final months, regulated and nationalised the life out of our economy and then went on to lose an election in 1984 in spectacular fashion.

Ironically it was Labour who then swept into power and with the wise direction from Roger Douglas transformed the economy into a far more sustainable one.

Sadly Douglas was stopped before he was finished, by the very same people who have foisted the current heavy burden on our economy today.

Only fools don't learn from history and surely Cullen, a Dr of History himself(not in business or economics) shouldn't be as foolish as he has been over the last few weeks.

We surely cant afford a repeat.

Related Share Investor reading

Fran O'Sullivan: Cullen's shock move hinders Airport bid
Cullen's move on AIA tax plan Anti-Business
NZ Herald: Airport Deal not so sweet after tax break blocked
NZX Press Release: AIA directors recommend shareholders sell
AIA profit stays grounded
Softening opposition to CPPIB bid for AIA
Directors of AIA bribe brokers not to sell
What is Auckland Airport worth to you?
Second bite at AIA by CPPIB might just fly
AIA new directors must focus on shareholders
Auckland Airport merger deal nosedives
The Canadians have landed
AIA incentive scheme must fly out the window
Government market manipulation over AIA/DAE deal
DAE move on AIA: Will it fly?


Disclosure: I own AIA shares

Share Investor 2008