Gaynor on the ports

provides some excellent analysis:

One of POA’s biggest issues is its wage bill of $54.9 million compared with POT’s total employee expenses of $25.3 million, even though the latter is now the larger port.

Port of Tauranga was miniscule when it listed 20 years ago, but today has higher revenue, earnings and dividends than POA.

POT is an excellent model for the proposed partial sale of the Crown-owned electricity generators and Solid Energy.

The port company had a 10 per cent ownership restriction, a strong board and management and has performed exceptionally well as a listed company under the public/private ownership model.

In 2002, the company had a capital return of $7 per cancelled share on the basis of one share for every eight shares held, and the following year it had a two-for-one share split. Thus an investor who bought 1000 shares for $1050 in the IPO has had $875 of capital returned, and the remaining 1750 shares are now worth $17,850 at $10.20 a share. These figures do not take into account total dividends of more than $370 million over the two decades.

In other words, POT’s sharemarket value has surged from $80 million to $1368 million over this 20-year period and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which still owns 55 per cent, has been a major beneficiary of this.

Stunning results. And the key thing to note is a mixed ownership model can result in the public’s stake being worth more at (say) 55% than if they had retained 100% ownership.

As the accompanying figures show, POA has been hammered by POT in recent years: POA’s ebitda has fallen from $92.6 million in 2003 to $74.4 million, whereas POT’s has increased from $69.5 million to $95.0 million; POA’s ebitda margin has fallen from 55.3 per cent to 40.5 per cent while POT’s has increased from 47.6 per cent to 51.2 per cent; most importantly, POA’s dividend has declined from $34.5 million to $17.6 million while POT’s has increased from $22.8 million to $40.2 million.

This is a huge concern to Auckland ratepayers as the $17.8 million POA dividend represents a return of only 2.1 per cent on POA’s $848 million 2005 takeover value.

Mike Lee should be held accountable for this.

In 2010, POA had total employee expenses of $51.9 million compared with only $18.5 million at POT and last year employee benefits plus pension costs were $54.9 million at POA compared with POT’s $25.3 million.

This is what happens when people get paid for 43 hours, despite only working 28 hours. I am presuming the POT costs included contracted labour.

Lee made the ridiculous statement that POA and POT should act in an anti-competitive way by working together to get better rates from shipping companies. He went on to say that the shipping cartel Maersk and Fonterra “have kept prices right down by playing Tauranga off with Auckland” – yet Lee was primarily responsible for stopping merger talks between POA and POT.

We want competition between ports. That drives efficiency and productivity gains.

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