Talk Money with Tony Field – October 9, 2015


The New Zealand Super Fund has had a stellar run. But inevitably it was not immune to the recent volatility in world markets.

The Fund says it slipped 4.3 percent in value in August, losing NZ$1.3 billion. That was still slightly better than the benchmark it judges itself against. Its "reference portfolio" lost 5.13 percent in value. The performance is after costs and before the payment of taxes.

The Fund is now worth $28.79 billion.

It returned 7.59 percent over the 12 months to the end of August and it has delivered annualised returns of 9.67 percent since its launch almost 12 years ago.

The Fund says that because it is a long-term investor it has a greater-than-average ability to withstand this volatility. It points out that shifts in value from month to month have to be seen in the context of its long term purpose and performance.

The Fund's five-year return was 15.36 percent and its annualised return over the last three years was 16.97 percent.

A look at where and how the Fund invests its money is instructive.

By far the largest allocation is to global equities (shares). But it also has some holdings in assets that are more illiquid, meaning they could potentially take longer to sell. It is able to take these positions because it is a long-term investor.

At the end of August the Fund had:

Sony is looking at selling its share of the world's most valuable song catalogue, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.

It jointly owns the Sony/ATV Music Publishing partnership with the estate of Michael Jackson.

The company owns the publishing rights to most of The Beatles' songs and rights for artists like Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye and Calvin Harris.

Sony/ATV Music does not own the rights to The Beatles' recordings. But the publishing rights give it control over the way the songs can be used for remakes and for use in film and TV.

The company is valued at US$2 billion. The estate of Michael Jackson has the first right to buy out Sony's 50 percent stake in the business.

There are no guarantees that Sony will sell. It is considering a sale because its electronics division has been struggling.

Michael Jackson bought ATV Music Publishing for US$47.5 million in 1985. He sold a 50 percent stake in the business to Sony for more than $100 million in 1995.

Three years ago Sony and Michael Jackson's estate joined other investors, including Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co. and music mogul David Geffen, to acquire EMI Music Publishing. They paid $2.2 billion. This raises the issue of how the EMI catalogue would be packaged in the sale.

Back in the 1980s Paul McCartney had advised Michael Jackson to start investing in publishing. He hadn't expected that Michael Jackson would be the one to buy the publishing rights to the Beatles' songs. The former Beatle had hoped that he and Yoko Ono would be the ones to do that?

Perhaps Sir Paul will be keen to talk to Sony about the proposed sale?

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is getting worse and potentially a lot more expensive for VW.

VW has set aside US$7.3 billion (NZ$10.9 billion) to cover the costs of the scandal.

The company faces potential fines in the US of $18 billion (NZ$27 billion) but hopes to settle for much less than that.

However analysts at UBS say the real costs could run to at least $54 billion New Zealand dollars.

Potential costs include fines, legal action in other countries, lawsuits from individual customers, potential lost sales and the cost of remedying the problem with the 11 million cars.

It will start work on the vehicles in January and at 30,000 a day it will take all year to fix them.

NZ$54 billion is the equivalent of three years of VW's profits.

Here is my talk with Paul Henry about VW's challenges.

The New Zealand dollar has gained more ground overnight.

It was trading was 66.56 US cents at 7:30am.

The Kiwi also made gains against the Australian currency, rising to 91.94 cents.

It was trading at 43.43 pence, 79.77 Yen and 58.93 Euro.

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