Auckland Council all set to start borrowing money overseas with debt forecast to almost double to near NZ$6 bln in 5 years

Auckland Council all set to start borrowing money overseas with debt forecast to almost double to near NZ$6 bln in 5 years

By Gareth Vaughan

The Auckland Council, which is under threat of a credit rating downgrade from Standard & Poor's, is set to become the first New Zealand council to borrow money overseas as soon as this month as the "Super City" forecasts its debt to almost double to reach levels near NZ$6 billion within five years.

Andrew McKenzie, Auckland Council's chief financial officer, told interest.co.nz via a spokeswoman the Council was in the final stages of establishing a European Medium Term Note Programme.

"We will have that finalised and available to borrow under by the end of this month," McKenzie said. "All borrowing will be undertaken on a fully hedged currency basis."

He said the Council could start borrowing money through the programme from the end of November, but this was subject to market conditions.

"We will not borrow offshore unless it provides a benefit compared to borrowing in the domestic markets," added McKenzie.

The Auckland Council was established on November 1 last year through the amalgamation of eight councils in the Auckland region, - the Auckland Regional Council, Auckland City Council, Franklin District, Manukau City Council, North Shore City Council, Papakura District Council, Rodney District Council and Waitakere City Council.

For the year to June 30, 2012 the "Super City" currently plans to borrow a total of NZ$981 million, which includes refinancing of NZ$779 million and new debt of NZ$202 million.

The overseas borrowing programme is being arranged by HSBC, with ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Citibank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, UBS and Westpac all involved as dealers, with Auckland Council keen to point out all these banks have offices in the City of Sails.

Fresh law enables overseas borrowing

The Council is able to borrow offshore after Parliament passed the Local Government Borrowing Bill in September. This legislation, overseen by ACT Party MP and Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide, lifts a previous prohibition on local government bodies borrowing overseas. The Auckland Council says borrowing money in currencies other than the New Zealand dollar will ultimately save it about NZ$10 million a year and says it'll hedge its exposure to interest rate and foreign currency fluctuations. 

The legislation also established the Local Government Funding Agency (LGFA), or local council bond bank, through which other local authorities will be able to borrow overseas indirectly.

McKenzie said the Auckland Council's offshore borrowing programme allows it to borrow in "all markets except for the United States."

"The programme allows us to borrow from habitual investors i.e. banks, governments and institutional investors," he said. "If we decide to borrow from US investors, we can document an issue relatively quickly."

McKenzie said Auckland Council had no fixed total planned for its overseas borrowing programme.

"The amount that we borrow domestically in our own name, through the LGFA, and in offshore markets in our own name, will depend upon the relative pricing in each market. This relative pricing between the different sources of funding can change over time, so it is both important and prudent to have the flexibility to be able to access all funding sources," added McKenzie.

'CreditWatch negative' with debt forecast to double from just under NZ$3 bln over next five years

On Monday Standard & Poor's placed the Auckland Council's AA credit rating on CreditWatch with negative implications citing concerns over the council's debt levels reaching 200% of operating revenue by 2015.  McKenzie said by S&P's measure of gross debt as a percentage of operating revenue, Auckland Council is currently sitting at 140%. Net debt as a percentage of operating revenue is 122%, he added.

S&P said it might downgrade the rating by one notch to AA- in a move McKenzie reckons would add 0.5% to 1.5%, or NZ$3 million to NZ$12 million, to the Council's annual interest bill on its debt.

According to its annual report, Auckland Council, alone, had total net borrowings of NZ$2.97 billion as of June 30. That's equivalent to about NZ$5,792 per ratepayer.

However, when subsidiary Watercare Services and various council controlled organisations such as Auckland Transport, which manages the Auckland region’s transport services and infrastructure, Auckland Council Property, which manages the council's commercial property, Auckland Council Investments, which manages the council's investments including shareholdings in Auckland International Airport and Ports of Auckland, and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, are added in, total debt rises to NZ$4 billion.

As of June 30 Auckland Council had net assets of NZ$26.5 billion alone and NZ$27.9 billion when Watercare and the council controlled organisations are added. For the eight months to June 30 Auckland Council had total income of NZ$1.32 billion and total expenditure of NZ$1.31 billion. When Watercare and the council controlled organisations are added, total income was NZ$1.87 billion and total expenditure NZ$1.99 billion.

The Council's draft Long-Term Plan projects debt to be at NZ$5.75 billion in the 2016/17 year. However, should Auckland Council borrow the entire amount for the City Rail Loop, a project strongly supported by Mayor Len Brown, plus the Labour and Green parties, debt in 2016/17 is projected to be NZ$5.94 billion.

The Council spokeswoman noted, however, that it has yet to be decided who, if anyone, will fund the proposed NZ$2.4 billion City Rail Loop, and what contribution would be made to the repayment of any borrowings for it by the central government.

"For instance, the NZ Transport Agency has committed to repay at least 50% of the principle and interest payments on the EMU (NZ$500 million electric train) borrowings undertaken by Auckland Council. Projected debt under both scenarios is expected to peak in 2021/22. It needs to be highlighted that these figures are provisional and subject to change depending upon the draft Long-Term Plan consultation process."

Labour has committed to contribute NZ$1.2 billion of taxpayers' money to the City Rail Loop should it win the November 26 election and the Greens have pledged NZ$1.4 billion. In contrast Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the National Party will commit to further investment in Auckland transport where projects have sound businesses cases that clearly show they will reduce congestion and encourage economic growth.

Of the City Rail Loop, Joyce says Treasury analysis suggests for every NZ$1 spent building it, you would get only 30 or 40 cents back in economic benefits. 

'Pooled approach'

Meanwhile, Hide says the LGFA will issue local government bonds to investors and on-lend the funds raised to participating local authorities to help meet their funding needs. This pooled approach will help local authorities borrow money at lower interest rates than they would otherwise be able to do, says Hide, noting industry lobbyist Local Government New Zealand estimates the LGFA will save councils about NZ$25 million annually through scale and by obtaining a strong credit rating at or near AAA.

Philip Combes, currently treasurer of government debt manager the New Zealand Debt Management Office, will move to become chief executive of the LGFA. The NZDMO issued NZ$20 billion worth of government bonds in the 2010/11 year and plans to issue at least NZ$13.5 billion in the current 2011-12 financial year.

In March Auckland Council treasurer Mark Butcher told interest.co.nz the council wanted the option to be able to raise loans overseas because the New Zealand domestic debt markets are small and limited in terms of their ability to lend money to borrowers for terms beyond seven years.

For the Auckland Council it would be "prudent" to borrow longer term to better match its assets, many of which are infrastructure.

"What we do know is that by having the ability to go offshore we will get longer dated funding and also potentially a lower cost of funds too," Butcher said then.

"We do calculate what the interest savings are going to be to the Council. We've estimated it to be about 40 basis points of savings per annum, which equates to about NZ$10 million when you look at the long-term plan out to about 2018-19." (Or NZ$14.4 million per annum beyond the plan's horizon based on modelling done for the council by Cameron Partners and Asia Pacific Risk Management).

The Auckland Council is expected to be the second biggest borrower in the domestic capital markets after the Government.

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19 Comments

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Proof there is nothing new under the sun.

Yep, yet more can kicking making the problem one for future Pollies and voters....however if they dont expand public transport and peak oil bites the damage to Auckland's economy will be far worse.....

regards

No, no, no, and no again!

"We calculate what the interest savings are going to be........10 mill to 2018/19... bla bla bla"

Just like the advertising of big retailers "You save xxxxxxx if you spend xxxxxx"

And the rate payers already struggling with present rates and rising insurances  will have to pay double rates.

Wasn't  there an election promise "No rates rises"?

To get into even more debt on behalf of people - who do they think they are?

 

Hey Chinese got plently of $$$$ to lend and the Triad has the habbit off chopping fingers if you don't pay back in time -  it'll be yours, Andrew

How do we stop these people.  Huge egos exercised by spending other peoples money and very carelessly at that.  I thought that our rates were supposed go down with the super city.  what a load of rubbish that was.  And that is not enough for them now they want to borrow more as well.  Well in the USA whole city councils are going bankrupt.  I wonder what happens when a city goes bankrupt.  I guesse we will find out soon enough.

Please – stop “The NZmegalomania” - before we go bankrupt all together – as a nation.

I dont think the lenders will be unsecured, if the council defaults then they will just end up with the assets, no problem.

HA ! – what about the lenders and where are they coming from - the entire world is defaulting – except the Vatican.

 Larry Lang, chair professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a lecture that he didn’t think was being recorded that the Chinese regime is in a serious economic crisis—on the brink of bankruptcy. In his memorable formulation: every province in China is Greece.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china-news/chinese-tv-host-says-regime-n...

They are infact unsecured, lending at this level does not involve a charge over the local councils fleet of utes or a charge over the jungle gym at local park.

It is not the borrowing that is the problem....OK....the problem is pollies and pretty dim ones at that, are making the decisions on how the new credit will be spent....The Earth will continue to rotate on its axis..of that we can be certain...we can also be just as sure that much of the new credit will be diverted into rorts scams and local govt pork slicing fiddles.

Expect work creations to spring up out of the surface scum and be sold in a storm of BS aimed at ratepayers....most of it a total waste....doing no more than lining certain pockets, filling other bank accounts and distorting the real market every which way you can think of...and then some.

Imagine a new pair of gumboots on your feet...these are new credit gumboots...now try reaching the other side of that paddock full of shite while keeping them clean as new...notice how the shite sticks...now you know what's going to stick to that new credit!

 

In March Auckland Council treasurer Mark Butcher told interest.co.nz the council wanted the option to be able to raise loans overseas because the New Zealand domestic debt markets are small and limited in terms of their ability to lend money to borrowers for terms beyond seven years. 

Does Mr butcher not realise he has defined the limitations of the population he is proposing to borrowing on behalf of.?

If we are collectively too small and limited to lend beyond seven years does he not comprehend we are probably not able to service the sums he proposes to borrow.for the same reason.  

Exactly!

But all that borrowing will look soooooo good on his CV !.....he'll get a big fat payrise....bet the ratepayers love it....

Thats OK we Aucklanders will be better off under a statutory manager appointed by the lenders like Italy and Greece. 

What was the upside of borrowing this money?

Auckland is not the engine room of the economy, it is no different to a country service town, i.e. it depends on the surrounding business to buy its services and to pass there goods through it.

We have a corrupt way of measuring output, it is measured by what we spend, and the more Auckland spends the more they believe they are the engine room of the economy. If we borrow more and spend it and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

The village idiots are making a come back.

"S&P said it might downgrade the rating by one notch to AA- in a move McKenzie reckons would add 0.5% to 1.5%, or NZ$3 million to NZ$12 million, to the Council's annual interest bill on its debt."

 

"We do calculate what the interest savings are going to be to the Council. We've estimated it to be about 40 basis points of savings per annum, which equates to about NZ$10 million when you look at the long-term plan out to about 2018-19."

 

One wonders if the interest savings that were "calculated" took into account the fact that S&P would downgrade the Council's rating?

 

FYI from Radio NZ on a Auckland council vote today

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/91337/councillors-vote-against-reining-in-spending

Auckland councillors have narrowly voted not to rein in spending ahead of a possible credit downgrade by a major ratings agency.

Standard & Poor's says the council's draft long-term budget shows debt compared with income will rise in two years to reach the threshold for a one-notch downgrade.

A final decision on the downgrade will be made in three months.

One councillor, George Wood, told the council's meeting it should cut its costs and act with prudence to try to avoid a downgrade but his amendment to the draft budget was defeated, 11- 9 when it was put to the vote.

Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay says the negative watch notice was issues at a time when a number of businesses were suffering downgrades.

 

Draft no daft yes!

Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay says the negative watch notice was issues at a time when a number of businesses were suffering downgrades

I guess this is a defence of the adage -  'misery loves company'

Indefensible, self-serving nonsense..