Monday, April 28, 2008

Vector sale decision hangs on political knife edge

The dilemma I would be facing now if I was a minister in the New Zealand Government is, if I gave to go ahead for the Hong Kong based, Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) to buy 100% of Vector Vector Ltd [VCT.NZX] lines infrastructure, in the Wellington region, then I would be going against a decision I made just a few weeks ago to refuse the sale of a non-controlling interest in Auckland International Airport[ Ltd [AIA.NZX], to a Canadian pension fund, thereby making me look like an utter plonker.

On the other hand If I turned down the sale of arguably a much more "strategic" asset, again Wellington region power line infrastructure, then I would put the Chinese Government's nose out of joint by reneging on detail of various free trade agreements made only a couple of weeks ago and again look like an utter plonker.

Lets face it, our government is at least consistent in its inconsistency.

The vetoed sale of the airport and Vector's Wellington lines is the same scenario whatever way one cuts the cable.

To say otherwise is to be just ever so slightly more than economical with the truth. For Helen Clark to give the reasons for a go ahead for a Vector sale that "the sale doesn't include any sensitive or strategic land" is a pure unadulterated lie. She made reference to the Airport sale over this "land issue" but that deal wasn't turned down because of "sensitive land", it was turned down for political reasons.

The issue of land rights in the Vector deal may actually be applicable. The power infrastructure and lines that Vector is selling has to have easements over the land they transverse thereby making Helen Clark's claim just a generator or two short of a full load.

It is hard to say what the Labour Government will do in the Vector case, but one can be sure it will be a purely political decision, rather than the financial one it should be, and once again the investing public is unsure about how their investments will be treated by such Governments in future takeovers.

The consistency we investors need, especially during these tough economic times, is found wanting by the very authorities that are supposed to be instilling security and a level hand to one of the backbones of our economy. The stockmarket and the essential funds it provides for investment and economic expansion.

The university trained political plonkers who make these decisions have clearly not woken up to the fact that they are not working in theories anymore and the real world consequences of their ludicrous strokes of the pen is costing us millions.

Vector is going to retire some of its large debt with the proceeds of the sale, ironically established when management went on a buying spree around 5 years ago and borrowed heavily to buy the Networks now up for sale off United Networks.

Worryingly, Micheal Stiassny, Board Chairman and his management are also looking to use proceeds to buy more infrastructure assets, probably "greener" forms of electricity assets, like wind turbines, in which they already have interests in. Stiassny and his crew don't have a good track record in management or the purchasing of assets.

Investors marked VCT shares down 1c to NZ $2.10 on average volume on today's news.

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