In one if his more inane attempts to push the ALP’s anti-business barrow, Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Spokesman for Competition and Productivity, Dr. Andrew Leigh, for a doctor he somehow is, writes in the Fairfax papers about the five faceless investors who own much of Australia’s largest companies.
You see, according to Dr. Leigh:
five investors – HSBC, JP Morgan, National Nominees, Citicorp and BNP Paribas – own a massive chunk of our listed companies.
Unfortunately for Dr. Leigh, these “five investors” are not actually investors. They are banks, or more to the point here, they are custodians who hold assets and securities on behalf of institutional investors. These “five investors” hold assets for organisations such as Australian Super and the Future Fund to small boutique fund managers.
Dr. Leigh further notes that:
What’s surprising about this is that many Australians probably haven’t heard of some of them.
On this he would probably be right. Because these organisation are not investors with whom mum and dad investors and superannuants are invested.
To further demonstrate his lack of understanding, Dr. Leigh writes:
Let’s take investor HSBC, for example. In petrol retailing, it owns one-third of Caltex and one-fifth of Woolworths. In electricity, it owns one-fifth of Origin and one-fifth of AGL. In life insurance, it owns a quarter of AMP and one-fifth of ANZ. In department stores and supermarkets, it owns one-fifth of Myer, David Jones, Wesfarmers and Woolworths.
Now I don’t watch the ASX market that closely, but I don’t recall a swath of takeover bids for Caltex, Woolworths, Origin or AGL, as is required under the Corporations Act when beneficial ownership hits 20% (with some minor exceptions). I also don’t recall seeing substantial shareholder notices issued by HSBC for any of these corporates, also as required under the ASX Listing Rules, when beneficial ownership exceeds 5%.
Ignorance of the basics of Australian capital markets and the Corporations Act is not a crime. However, one must wonder what the Shadow Minister responsible for matters including ASIC, adds to this brief?
Perhaps it’s time for the Hon. Bill Shorten to rotate Dr. Leigh to portfolio Dr. Leigh might be more comfortable with. With Kate Ellis’s retirement, perhaps the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development.