Michael Pascoe, associate editor of Eureka Report, writes:

Nice to see someone aside from the usual overpaid advisors picking up lolly from the Alinta-AGL battle of egos – the nation’s fishwrappers need every cheesy full page Alinta ad they can get.

A much better appreciation of what’s involved beyond the competing hubris can be obtained from Alan Kohler’s Smage column this morning, but my Eureka Report colleague might be guilty of burying one of the juiciest details deep in the body copy: Alinta’s bid is partly fuelled by a tax rort. Perfectly legal and above board, of course, but still what the common man might consider a rort:

Johnson even proposed a scheme in which Alinta actually bids for AGL, but AGL management end up in charge. That was so AGL’s gas pipes could be written up in value by $1 billion and then depreciated over 20 years, knocking $50 million a year off the tax bill (that’s something you can only do after purchasing assets, so AGL can’t do it but it is an important part of Alinta’s proposal).

Nice. A little accounting fiat and taxpayers subsidise the Alinta boys to the tune of $1 billion. I wonder if Peter Costello’s once-over-lightly-have-it-on-my-desk-by-lunchtime tax review will be considering that sort of thing. Perhaps not.

Kohler’s column goes on to explore ground he’s previously covered – Alinta’s outrageous infrastructure management fee gouge – but it’s still worth a read. While these sorts of takeover stoushes might seem of little relevance to those who aren’t shareholders, as infrastructure users we all end up paying somewhere along the line for the corporate excess, expense and gouge. Just ask any tunnel or airport user.

Peter Fray

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