Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Shareholders approve of sale of TradeMe to private equity firm, family ties between Shane Jones and logging boss, and Newsroom journalists detained in Fiji.
TradeMe shareholders have given overwhelming backing to a takeover offer from a British private equity firm called Apax Partners, reports Business Desk. It’s the final major hurdle to clear for the $2.56 billion offer, with only High Court approval to come. It has secured Overseas Investment Office approval. The vote passed with about two thirds of shares represented, by a 99% margin. Out of the nine thousand or so shareholders, about 20 were in the room in Wellington when the vote went through, with another 30 tuning in online. We haven’t covered this sale much in The Bulletin, but it’s worth unpacking further.
In a very clear way, it’s understandable that the shareholders were so keen to cash up. During the offer process, shares jumped to record highs. They have always been pretty handy shares to have. A Stuff story from when the Apax Partners offer was made quoted investment advisor Grant Davies as saying the company was a “cash cow,” after high growth in the early years. The offer that came in (and was later raised to meet a rival offer) was considered on the good side of what the company was worth.
TradeMe has become one of the pre-eminent growth companies in New Zealand over the last 20 years. It’s sometimes easy to forget that back in 2001, they saw off a challenge from eBay, and a lot of that was by tapping into the local community of the userbase. They have become one of those rare things in the New Zealand economy, as an organisation that dominates their particular market, when there are also international giants to compete with – (think Alibaba, Craigslist or even Gumtree in Australia.) They’ve also been through a few previous sales.
For the NZX itself, the sale isn’t the best news. While shareholders will make off well, the company as a whole will be delisted, and it was one of the better performing shares on the main board. It may come back into NZ hands – it has before, after a period of ownership by Fairfax – but it has long been useful for that exchange. They have very few new listings coming in, and “the loss of Xero and TradeMe in reasonably quick succession does reinforce its global backwater vibe”, said The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive on Slack last night. Having said that, there’s an interesting take on all of this from Victoria Crone, who noted late last year that the money that comes in to shareholders will probably then be further distributed around New Zealand – potentially on new ventures.
And what will all of this mean for the people who work for TradeMe, and for users themselves? There’s a really good piece of analysis from Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker on this, which notes that the immense profitability of TradeMe will probably keep the wolves from the door for a while. Many are naturally wary of private equity firms, as they so often become vultures, who strip out assets and leave a shell of a company in their wake. But Apax are considered to be more long term in their thinking (they’ve been around a long time at least) and the value of TradeMe is that it requires relatively low costs to maintain high margins and a large customer base. Their best way to maximise their money may well be to leave everything pretty much as it is. We’ll soon see what they choose.
An update to yesterday’s story about minister Shane Jones and the Northland logging company. Stuff reports that Mr Jones is actually related to the owner of Semenoff Logging, Stan Semenoff. Mr Jones raised concerns about the economic implications an NZTA decision to take the company off the road would have, after a massive number of long-standing safety concerns over their operations. An appeal against the decision is currently under way. Oh, and by the way, Shane Jones is also an associate transport minister, so that’s just another hat he may or may not be wearing in all of this. Shane Jones denies any conflict of interest.
A trio of Newsroom journalists have been detained in Fiji overnight, in the course of trying to cover a story about a resort doing serious environmental damage. Their phones were taken, and they were held for questioning – at the time of writing they’re still understood to be in detention. Melanie Reid, one of those in custody, said it was ridiculous, and despite working in some nasty places around the world it has never happened to her. It’s outrageous stuff, and they should be released immediately.
Has Facebook really changed at all? Two stories jump out regarding their recent talk about livestreaming on their platform, and hosting white nationalist content. Privacy commissioner John Edwards told Radio NZ yesterday that he had been informed that no changes to live-streaming had been made, in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack being live-streamed on Facebook.
As well as that, this story from Huffpost is pretty damning. Their journalist showed a company spokesperson a video from Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy, in which clear and obvious white nationalist views were espoused, and the spokesperson said it wouldn’t breach their new guidelines. It raises the question – what exactly has been changed?
The National Party is facing a dispute with the so-called “emotional junior staffer” at the centre of a saga around a deleted website petition. Stuff reports that what the staffer is alleging refers to media comments on the process of deleting a petition against the UN Migration Pact from National’s website, in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch terror attack. At the time, Simon Bridges said it had been cleared earlier as part of a routine cleanup – cached records later proved that to be wrong. The staffer has retained the services of high-powered lawyer Linda Clark.
Here’s a really interesting piece from Farmers Weekly, about incremental environmental gains being tested by dairy farmers. Basically, through doing a whole lot of small things a little bit better, the test farm was able to reduce nitrogen loss to waterways, and cut down on the greenhouse gases produced by the farm’s operations. If those measures were applied across the whole sector – and that’s a big if to be fair – the overall outcomes could be quite significant.
New Zealand’s involvement in the endless Afghanistan war could have stopped around 2009, according to declassified documents. Stuff reports the Cabinet papers describe an over-stretched military, and illustrated a desire to withdraw without offending the USA. At that stage, New Zealand had already been involved in the war for almost a decade. NZDF personnel remain there to this day.
Spark boss Simon Moutter has sprung a surprise and stepped away from the job, reports the NZ Herald. He was replaced immediately by customer director Jolie Hodson. It comes at an interesting time for Spark, amid their pivot towards being a sports broadcaster. The board reckons the best interests of the company are maintained in Julie Hodson, who had been pre-vetted as part of their succession planning.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Sam Brooks returns the publication to its roots, with a brilliant set of power-rankings for the new contestants on Dancing with the Stars. Madeleine Chapman follows up her viral post about chips, with a a post about the viral post about chips. Leonie Hayden gets a look inside some of the enclosure changes being made by Auckland Zoo. And I spoke to former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief John Pomfret about aspects of the NZ-China relationship that don’t often get covered quite so much.
So, yesterday’s feature about climate change was quite doom and gloom. Fortunately, today’s feature does a brilliant job of capturing a different side of it all – in a nihilistic way, climate change writing can actually be really funny too. Writing for US publication Popula, Sarah Miller went to go and look at beachfront property in Miami, a low lying city that is unlikely to be habitable by the end of the century. And what she wrote about it was deeply, darkly hilarious. Anyway, here’s an excerpt:
Biscayne Bay is breathtaking. I asked how the flooding was.
“There are pump stations everywhere, and the roads were raised,” he said. “So that’s all been fixed.”
“Fixed,” I said. “Wow. Amazing.” I asked how the hurricanes were.
He said that because the hurricanes came from the tropics, from the south and this was the west side of Miami Beach, they were not that bad in this neighborhood. “Oh, right,” I said, as if that made any sense.
The Crusaders have announced how they’ll go about deciding whether to have a name or branding change. In a media release, they pointed out that the city of Christchurch had significant English heritage, and to be fair a lot of the rugby community has always drawn on that heritage. But they also said the attack had changed a lot, and they had a responsibility to make the best decision for the community. As such, they may change either the iconography, or the name as a whole, at the end of the season.
There were a lot of interesting calls coming in to Sportstalk on Newstalk ZB last night on the subject, with many views covered. One from an older guy called Grant made a salient point about branding change. “Someone said removing the horsemen would mean that the terrorist had won. Well, we understand a bit about what his views were, and I’d think he’d want hundreds of horsemen riding around.” Fair call Grant.
Meanwhile, how good are the Central Pulse right now? 7 wins from 7 games, that’s how good. Newshub reports they’ve smashed the Northern Starts 68-42 in Porirua, with teenagers Aliyah Dunn leading the scoring, shooting 38 goals at 92% accuracy. There’s still a month of games to go, but a huge gap has opened up between the top 3 and the bottom 3 in the ANZ Premiership, which means the Pulse are all but assured of a spot in the finals.
From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.
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