Fisher & Paykel’s woes give Sheppard rush of blood
I think Bruce Sheppard does a good job in his own eccentric way of trying to bring attention to the piss poor way some companies are run and the disdainful way they often treat small shareholders.
Fisher & Paykel are in the poo. This isn’t very surprising, they have always struggled and I personally am impressed just how long they have survived and how well they have done with products like the dish drawers. F&P have some clever ideas that are generally produced OK, possibly a bit poorly constructed – in fact I guess they are clever, expensive and a bit unreliable.
I’m trying to think of other companies that make clever, expensive but unreliable products and it’s mainly Italian companies that spring to mind, Fiat for example. In Italy these companies survive because of tax payers generosity, or more correctly, politicians generosity. As Italy is the 7th largest economy in the world, I guess they might feel they can afford to be generous to their ‘iconic’ companies, even if they are actually pretty average in performance.
In New Zealand (which is 51st in the world rankings on size of economy) we don’t quite have the same ability to be generous, we also aren’t part of the EU which is expert at subsidising and propping up industries that should have disappeared decades ago.
This is why I couldn’t disagree more with Bruce’s suggestions that John Key should step in to save F&P because it’s an iconic industry.
I’ve refreshed my memory on exactly what ‘iconic’ means, as there are a few meanings. I’m assuming Sheppard doesn’t mean it in the religious sense, at least I really hope not as I don’t think anyone would get that worked up about fridges and washing machines, so that only leaves the more modern meaning…
“A cultural icon can be an image, a symbol, a logo, picture, name, face, person, or building or other image that is readily recognized, and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group”
Mind you, even that really stretches it given Wikipedia’s examples. My fridge is a Mitsubishi, it was cheaper, had more features, was more power efficient, and looked better (and is probably going to last longer and be more reliable) than what F&P had on offer here. So although Bruce Sheppard, and indeed John Key might remember F&P appliance from his childhood, that doesn’t make F&P an iconic company deserving of tax payer largess. If they also remember, nobody had any choice in the matter because F&P was propped up by high import tariffs. In fact it is probably the high tariffs that allowed F&P to become a bit uninspiring and cumbersome, although it’s come a long way since we all got real and made them play in the real world sand pit.
Is Bruce suggesting we should be indirectly helping workers in China? let’s not forget most of the dirty work is done over there now, and F&P can’t be regarded as a native NZ company any more.
I’m hoping Key politely ignores Bruce on this one, and that Bruce goes back to being a shareholder activist, and that he drops the quaint notion that taxpayers should be bailing out investors at every turn. Giving money to a bank is bad enough, to an appliance company is a slippery slope we just don’t want to head towards.
The next few years will be a true test of whether F&P has got what it takes to survive in the real world – that is, make stuff that people like and want to buy, and keep buying because they like it more once they have bought it!
If they don’t survive, it’s because us consumers didn’t like what we saw, or bought, and that’s just the way a consumer society is.