Let's be more direct about investment

Nathan Smith
Insights Newsletter
22 May, 2020

It’s not exactly clear why there is so much nervousness about overseas interests buying something like the Auckland port. It’s not like they can take the port with them.

Surely a US dollar is just as good as an NZ dollar, and foreign capital is often the only way many early stage companies can get any funds, given the shallow pool of high-net-worth Kiwi investors.

Maybe it’s not the investment that bothers people, it’s how some investments might look.

I mean, it wouldn’t look too great for a Japanese interest to buy a significant stake in Sealord, for example. Last year, Japanese whaling ships resumed whaling in Japan’s territorial waters, although not yet into Antarctic waters. But I would certainly twiddle my moustache if I saw Kyodo Senpaku Co. on Sealord’s books.

That’s not the only one. With all the hoopla about Beijing’s murky involvement with its telcos, do Kiwis really want to read about one of them building the next Covid-19 tracing app? If data is the new oil, then at least in this case perhaps a renminbi isn’t the same as a US dollar. It just wouldn’t smell right.

Speaking of weird-smelling deals, I could totally understand the raised eyebrows if a Saudi Arabian interest bought a bunch of equity in Southland sheep farms. Kiwis have a notoriously short memory for political scandals, but that one would be particularly ironic.

And while only political hacks and teenagers care about hypocrisy, the comedy potential of a European car company buying shares in Z Energy’s new emissions-friendly business plan would help fill 20-minute stand-up routines in bars across the country.

By the way, has anyone looked at the shareholdings of New Zealand vineyards? I’m looking for French interests. No wine company outside France can use the name “Champagne” to market their bottles, so they use the bland term “sparkling wine” instead. Money is money, but seeing French investors supporting Kiwi wine strikes as a bit too… French.

And there’s something very colonial about rich Americans buying bolt-holes in Queenstown in case they need to escape a return of tyranny in their beloved US of A. What about Kiwis? If the safest fortresses in Queenstown will be full of Californian tech nerds during the next Apocalypse, are the rest of us expected to hide behind flax bushes in Eketahuna? This is New Zealand, dammit!

Come to think of it, without some overseas money, how will we get the necessary US dollars to buy potatoes and bread when the Kiwi dollar hyperinflates? Good question.

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