The corporate raiders of the world have a very nasty case of indigestion after overindulging massively for a decade or so, and that's very bad news for Mick Costa, Minister Representing Merchant Banks, in the NSW Labor government.
Costa wants to sell the state's electricity network to corporate raiders, probably with Macquarie Bank in the mix in some way, but as a report in today's Sydney Morning Herald points out, the raiders have a bad attack of gas (for which we all have to suffer the consequences) and have lost their appetite.
The global credit crunch makes loans a lot more expensive, and it will probably be difficult to find a buyer for NSW electricity system, big-end-of-town adviser Standard and Poor's says.
This is extremely bad news for Mick Costa, who is reportedly planning to follow former Labor premier Bob Carr into a financial career. He may have left his run too late. Carr jumped while the bulls were in full cry, but whether Costa will be of much use to his banker mates in the new circumstances is questionable.
Costa is cracking hardy, saying: "Standard and Poor's provided yet more evidence that electricity was an increasingly risky business from which the government should exit".
Hang on a minute, isn't electricity an essential service? Costa seems to be saying it's okay to hand over this essential service to a company that's silly enough to invest in a risky industry. What happens when the company that makes such a bad business decision goes bust?
Costa also repeated the claim that the power generators would not be sold. As Bernie Riordan has already pointed out, leasing the facilities to private companies for 99 years or so amounts to selling them, because at the end of that time the leasors would own any improvements.
All in all, things are not looking good for Costa's jump to the big end of town. Better go now, Mick, if the offer's still on the table. It may not be for long. I hope that doesn't mean we get stuck with you.