Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hanover's "White Knights" are really daylight robbers

Some of the tripe written recently about how positive the "rescue package" that owners of Hanover Finance have put forward this week has me concerned because it presents a false picture of what is going on at Hanover now, and what has happened with the company in the past.

This from Phillip Macalister of Good Returns, a company that used to advertise on its websites and magazines for Hanover:

"It has been pretty open about its situation and its plans. That is a major plus." Phil's Blog, Nov 2008

When asked if he thought that the deal would silence all the critics he said: “I don’t think there’s any solution which would deliver that.”

The package being put forward though is designed to show that the “shareholders are standing up and supporting the business in its time of need.”

Also it makes sure that there is a future for the business. Good Returns, News Centre Sept 2008

Macalister contends that Hanover and its two top monkeys, Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin have been "pretty open" about the situation of the company but nothing could be further from the truth.

If one did just a little googling one could find a plethora of writing from credible investigative journos that would give lie to Phil's assertions. Unfortunately many of the 16000 investors in Hanover are of an age that they think googling might be related to self abuse rather than information that they would find illuminating about Hanover.

As far back as 2004, Deborah Hill Cone-ironically writing in a piece originally written for the National Business Review but reprinted in one of Macalister's websites-discovered there was trouble brewing for Hanover and its 16000 investors:

But if you want to write anything about Hanover Group itself ­ why it has more than $100 million tied up in related party loans, say, or why it lent money to the sad sacks signing up for conman Henry Kaye's seminars or even the seemingly simple question of why it doesn't file consolidated accounts ­ that's not considered quite so charming. Deborah Hill Cone, The Secretive Rise of the House of Hanover, Sharechat, March 2004

Just in the last two years alone the NZ Herald reports that $NZ86.5 million in dividends were creamed from Hanover and went to Watson and Hotchin:

Hanover Finance yesterday told the Herald that of $86.5 million in dividends it had paid out to Mr Watson and Mr Hotchin over the last two years, just over $70 million had been used by them or their companies to repay "related party" loans. Investigators swoop on Hanover, NZ Herald, July 2008.

But as Deborah wrote back in 2004, financial figures supplied by Watson and Hotchin for Hanover don't show the full picture because of the vast amount of inter-party lending and the complex nature in the way Hanover and its dozens of interrelated companies are structured is able to disguise inter-party lending so that Eric and Mark could even buy a super yacht with depositors money.

Why aren't accounts filed for Hanover that would show the consolidated picture for the whole group?

Karen Toner, one of the authors of KPMG's Financial Institution survey laughs when I say I'd like to see the consolidated figures for Hanover Group.

"Wouldn't we all? I think everyone in the industry would like to know that."

The group has a complex structure, with Hanover Group Holdings as the overall holding company and Elders Finance and Nationwide Finance subsidiaries of Hanover Financial Services. Elders is the parent company of subsidiaries United Finance, Leasing Solutions and FAI Finance.

Another finance company, Onesource Finance, is owned by Hanover Group, a separate subsidiary of Hanover Group Holdings. Deborah Hill Cone, The Secretive Rise of the House of Hanover, Sharechat, March 2004

Now the way Hanover was structured and its vast amount of inter party lending-that is lending that personally lined the pockets of Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin-may not be different from the 2 dozen or so finance companies that have done investors dough over the last two years but for Greg Muir, the outgoing chairman of Hanover, to come out today on behalf of the dastardly duo to make them look like white knights coming to the rescue of investors and they should all be grateful and in awe of their generosity has got to be the joke of the year:

"I can't talk about their personal motivations, I don't know what they are...all I can say is I think the shareholders have dug into their pockets as deeply as they feel they possibly can and this is the best result they can deliver." Hotchin told the Star-Times that shareholders had no obligation to put in more money but had done so because they wanted the company to keep going and repay investors. "I personally don't owe that money [to investors], neither does Eric, the company does, but we're pledging fresh money to help ensure they get back their principal. Hanover Duo Dig Deep, Sunday Star Times, Nov 2008

Morally, the principal duo do owe investors in Hanover because they extracted at least NZ$300 million from the company since 2001 and possibly as much as half a billion, which puts this weeks offer of $56 million of cash and dubiuos "assets" in some context.

The most recent publicly available Elders accounts, for the year to June 2003, show related party transactions of $93.5 million, up from $83.6 million in 2002, and $67.7 million in 2001. ShareChat, March 2004

Hanover Finance yesterday told the Herald that of $86.5 million in dividends it had paid out to Mr Watson and Mr Hotchin over the last two years. NZ Herald, July 2008

This easy money went to themselves and other "related parties" but hey according to Hotchin there is nothing personal about it, it is the Hanover business that owes 16000 investors more than half a billion bucks.

If you expect the same people to look after you in a restructure of the company, through their moratorium, that ran it into the ground in the first place then you need to take a good hard look at yourself.


Related Share Investor reading

Hanover collapse: It was just a matter of time
Money Managers Saga: 3 Story wrap
Money Managers gives First Step investors the middle finger
Greed is bad: Geneva Finance Folds
Financial 101: Learn before you leap
Kevin's Blog

Related Links

From Stuff.co.nz

Hanover downgrade raises questions about credit ratings
Hanover Finance in troubled waters

Watchdog probes Hanover
Hanover et al, punt for the cash- Bruce Sheppard

NZ Herald on Hanover

Mark and Eric buy super yacht-TVNZ


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c Share Investor 2008