Between the lines: NZ still bleeding its assets 08.03.2001 By BRIAN FALLOW
The Overseas Investment Commission's figures for the second half of
last year make depressing reading.
But not for the reason advanced by John Luxton, National's spokesman on inward investment.
He points to the decline from $3 billion worth of net investment approved in the first half of last year to less than $300 million in the second half as indicating a loss of confidence on the part of overseas investors in the policies of the Government.
The figures are especially surprising, Mr Luxton says, because of the low value of the dollar.
But the figures for the first half were swollen by the $5 billion sale of Fletcher Paper to Norske Skog. The buyout of the New Zealand minority shareholders in Fletcher Paper counts as "net investment" and accounts for most of the difference between the $900 million the commission initially reported for the first half last September and the revised $3 billion it records now that the terms of that deal are no longer confidential.
Now that Shell has secured Fletcher Energy, a similar boost will occur to the current half-year's figures, but it is unlikely that Mr Luxton will issue a press release lauding sound Government policies responsible for that turnaround in international investor sentiment.
What is dispiriting about the OIC figures is that they continue to chronicle the transfer of ownership of New Zealand assets abroad.
In the latest half-year, 91 per cent of the the $260 million of foreign investment approved consisted of agreement for Singapore Airlines to acquire 25 per cent of Air New Zealand, Credit Suisse First Boston to acquire 27 per cent of Fletcher Forests and the Commonwealth Bank to take out the 25 per cent of ASB it did not already own.
By contrast, the investment classified as greenfields is a meagre trickle - $22 million in the second half of last year and $26 million in the first half.
Indicators of portfolio investment tell a similar story. Foreign holdings of New Zealand Government bonds and Treasury bills have halved over the past two years. And a Deutsche Bank study found that the level of overseas ownership of New Zealand listed companies has been declining since 1996, from 61 per cent then to 54 per cent last year.
One other indicator of the way foreign investors feel about New Zealand has improved, however.
The balance of payments statistics break down how much of the collective profits of foreign controlled companies in New Zealand - and that is most of the big ones - is paid out in dividends and how much is ploughed back into the businesses which generated them.
In the mid-1990s as the current account deteriorated the Government spin was that the figures overstated the cash impact because most of the profits were being retained.
But we didn't hear that line much in the last term of the previous Government.
In the three years to September 1999, of the $10.6 billion earned by foreign-owned companies in New Zealand 95 per cent was paid out in dividends and only 5 per cent retained.
In the latest September year - the most recent figures available - the payout ratio had dropped to 70 per cent.
We need to re-nationalise our assets (intelligently, or we get nuked by the USA), and make the money stay in the country.
Air Pollution New Zealand's shocking environmental
Solar hot water systems obligatory. Carbon-tax, invested in electric car & eco technology.
A govt 5wise men gremium to spend 1c on the litre of petrol on gyro-gearlose inventors, keeping 50 % of license dow.
Deforestation and pests in New Zealand. Historically
catastrophic, not much different today.
Massive eradication of pests, massive replanting, new and effective eco-laws, strictly enforced.
New Zealand trains are another chance for ecological transport, but receive no serious ecological investment, NZ railways are milked for what they are worth. The real costs of the evironment is paid later. Current profits are huge and go entirely to foreign "investors". We need to set "business conduct" rules, and mandatory reinvestment in our future.
High Crime Rate (and Men's inequality ;-) ...
crime where the underpriviledged try to get their share...
Education and guaranteed welfare. Youth-centres,
I am not the right person to ask.
The Opossum-Plague they eat our forest
and compete with fragile bird-life....
"only from real New Zealand Possum-Plague-fur" and at the same time have
draconic punishments for those breeding possums here.
A honourable and inventive government scheme.
(please email me the links to your pages!)
Norbert HALEY Poste Restante P.O.Wellesley St. Auckland New ZealandIf you can contribute please send a email to: click here
Gene key to dairy profits11.03.2002 By PHILIPPA STEVENSON The identification of a cattle gene governing milk yield and its protein and fat content may enable farmers to breed animals that produce high-profit products. The finding by New Zealand, Belgian and Dutch scientists is the first from an eight-year-old project investigating the function of cattle genes. Dr Russell Snell, of Fonterra research subsidiary ViaLactia Biosciences, is one of the international team who reported the discovery in a paper published last month on the Genome Research www.genome.org website. Cattle had one of two versions of the gene, known as DGAT1, he said. "One version will give you more protein, more milk volume and less fat, and the other version more fat, less protein and less milk volume." A startling aspect of the discovery was that scientists had previously believed that fat and protein "travelled together", with the greater fat content of some cow's milk matched by greater protein content, he said. The team reported that because fat and protein had different economic value in some countries, the ability to identify a gene governing the components could have a significant effect on how milk production was modified in response to consumer demand. Chris Moller, managing director of Fonterra ingredient business NZMP, said the discovery was a win-win for farmers, manufacturers and marketers. "Overall, a development like this definitely drives in the direction best for the business. Even though there might be more volume of protein, there is a strong demand for it globally. It is worth more and can be used for a lot of functional applications." Milk with a higher protein content would be valuable because it was always a challenge for the company to sell fat in products such as butter and cheese. They were most wanted in markets such as America to which New Zealand had little access. NZMP's main markets for fat were the low-returning, politically and economically volatile regions of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Protein was worth more in the market, and consequently to farmers. Snell said the gene variation occurred naturally in cattle. "It's nature's experiment, and we're trying to unravel it." The aim of the research was to help with breeding decisions. "That's exactly what breeding companies have been doing for years. They've been breeding for a trait, but this adds to the accuracy of the breeding." A simple DNA test, available from research co-sponsor Livestock Improvement, showed which variation of the gene a cow had. On average, the "more-fat" version was prevalent in New Zealand herds - an expected result since a higher fat content in milk had been emphasised in dairy cattle breeding here for more than 30 years from the 1950s. American animals appeared to have the "more-protein" version. Snell said the incidence of the gene versions varied between breeds. Jersey cows, known for the higher fat content of their milk, tended to have the more-fat version. The discovery was made in June 2000, with preliminary patenting following that October. Breeding and genotyping companies around the world had since shown interest, Snell said. Another factor identified in the DGAT1 gene was that the different versions also influenced the softness or melting point of the fat, which had implications for processing and products. "It really points out what a wonderful thing it is finding an individual gene and how much biology you can unravel once you have it." Moller said that while butter's taste was popular with consumers, its lack of spreadability was not. "If we could have a product that spread but still had the taste of butter, there would be huge consumer demand and acceptance for that." The company had created spreadable butter but at high manufacturing cost. "To the degree that cows could be bred to produce softer fractions of fat, that would certainly have consumer demand and, presumably, reduce the [manufacturing] cost involved." Snell first read in a scientific journal about the gene in mice. Researchers investigating human obesity found that when the gene was removed from a mouse it lost the ability to lactate. He wondered if the same gene might be associated with traits in cattle. Some investigation was done in New Zealand before the project was passed to Professor Michel Georges, head of the genetics depart at the University of Liege's veterinary medicine faculty in Belgium. Georges' group did more analysis and identified the variation. "This is how cross-species research is really important," said Snell. "They make things so simple." The work was financed by ViaLactia and Livestock Improvement Corporation in New Zealand, Dutch and Belgian organisations and the European Union. http://nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?thesection=business&thesubsection=&storyID=1190904 (search for "Gene Key to dairy profits" in google-images search.)
Nation of sales assistants12.03.2002 By CATHERINE MASTERS and MATHEW DEARNALEY New Zealanders love to shop and we have the sales assistants to prove it. A snapshot of life in New Zealand from last year's Census reveals that "sales assistants" outnumber all other occupational categories. The 85,530 total is around 30,000 more than the number of general clerks (55,311) and nearly twice as many as the 43,077 general managers. Retail employers say such a large number of people work as sales assistants because New Zealanders are a nation of shoppers and the retail trade is growing. Cliff Daly, industrial consultant for the Retailers Association, says the number of sales assistants reflects how important the retail trade has become to the nation, both to the economy and as a recreational activity. "We love to shop. We love to spend time shopping. Kiwis in the past might have done a number of other things. Shopping is now very much a part of what people do as recreation." Sales assistants as defined by the Census toil behind shop counters, sell used cars, hire out videos, stack supermarket shelves and collect trolleys and a huge range of other activities. Matthew Krell, 29, sells sunglasses in Auckland, but for him and a host of students who hold down sales assistant jobs, it is a fill-in position which helps him move towards work in his chosen career of acting. "I used to be a store manager here but now it's just sales. Why? It's less stressful than managing. I come in here and make sure the customers get what they want and make sure they leave happy. "And it's good interaction. You get a constant change of pace, you never see the same face twice." Some, like Jean Lee, sell precious and rare stamps. She has worked as a sales assistant for Auckland stamp dealer Len Jury for eight years and the 58-year-old says it is the perfect job. She, too, collects stamps and plans to keep working until she retires. "I do enjoy the sales, yes. I enjoy talking to people." But one union says the country's biggest occupation is also the worst-paid, with many part-timers. Peter Monteith, retail spokesman for the National Distribution Union, says many people are attracted to sales because "you don't necessarily need qualifications, there's a high turnover and there are jobs available". Figures from Census night show that more New Zealanders than ever have jobs, including almost 200,000 who work at least 60 hours a week, and some people are even toiling away past the age of 85. A Census "snapshot" posted by the Statistics Department yesterday shows that 1,727,271 people, or 61.6 per cent of those aged 15 and over, were employed last year - compared with 60 per cent in 1996 - and that three in four of those were in full-time jobs. Youth unemployment remains a serious concern - 19.5 per cent of 222,645 people aged 20 to 24 draw the dole. But the good news is that this was the most academically or vocationally qualified age group. Just 13.5 per cent had nothing to their names, compared with 35 per cent of the 65 to 69-year bracket. School Certificate remained the highest qualification for most people, one in five adults. One in three adults had tertiary qualifications, and one in eight had a degree. Although the largest occupational group was sales assistants, the most common field of study for after-school qualifications was nursing, where there were 58,170 graduates. Off to work * About 1.72 million New Zealanders had jobs on Census night - or 61.6 per cent of those aged 15 or over - up from 60 per cent in 1996. * Three in four worked full-time, but 72 per cent of part-timers were female. Women comprised 46.5 per cent of the workforce. * Median annual income was $18,500. Wellingtonians had the highest median, of $22,400, followed by $21,100 in Auckland. * Males received a national median income of $24,900, compared with $14,500 for women. Men aged 40-44 had the highest median of $35,900. * Males continued to dominate manufacturing, construction, and managerial jobs, but there were more professional women than men, and females accounted for 82.7 per cent of the 140,568 workers in health and community services. * The largest occupational group were sales assistants, who numbered 85,530. * Almost 200,000 New Zealanders worked at least 60 hours a week, and 246 were still drawing income from an employer at 85 or older. A further 42 of those advanced years were on "job seeker" benefits, and 45 received a student allowance. * Changes to eligibility rules, including a climbing retirement age, saw those drawing national superannuation or a veteran's pension slip to 419,964 from 441,045 in 1996. * Only one in four adults left school without qualifications, down from one in three in 1996. * Almost 58 per cent of workers drove themselves to work on Census day, but women accounted for only 13.9 per cent who turned up in a company vehicle. * Only 3 per cent of workers used a bus, little more than the 2.35 per cent who cycled to work and fewer than the 5.3 per cent who walked or jogged. http://nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?thesection=news&thesubsection=&storyID=1191195