Thursday, September 27, 2007

Revealed: Why there are so few women in Leinster House

Interesting B&A survey of women's attitudes in today's IT - the sample size was 1,003 women aged 18+.

Combining the scores given under “Very Important” and “Quite Important”, the survey throws up some very interesting conclusions:

Personal care (skin/hair) 93%
Financial Independence 91%
Leisure Time 90%
Female friends 90%
Keeping fit 81%
Equality of the sexes 78%
Husband/boyfriend 75%
Taking care of children 69%
Having children in the future 42%
Politics 38%

Good to see that their men made it into the top 10.
And are you still wondering why there aren’t more women in Leinster House?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Des O'Malley renounces core PD philosophy

On Friday (14th Sept) Des O’Malley had a letter published in the Irish Times calling for Government intervention in order to ensure retention of the Aer Lingus Shannon-Heathrow service.

The current situation, and the Government’s decision not to intervene, is an obvious outworking of the free-market philosophy so strongly espoused by the Progressive Democrats during their last decade in Government.

O’Malley‘s plea might be more compelling if he was not the man most responsible for the creation of that party and its “let the market decide” philosophy.

If he’s still a member of the PDs he should resign immediately in protest at the Govt‘s action. If not, he should be expelled. What a laugh that would be!

It just goes to prove the old Tip O’Neill adage that “all politics are local”. O’Malley is from Limerick and his daughter may well try for a Dail seat there at the next general election. She lost her seat in Dun Laoghaire last May, and there’s a strong chance that Dun Laoghaire will be reduced from five to four seats next time around.

O'Malley's Letter
Madam, - I spent a good part of my political career seeking to encourage inward manufacturing investment. I had some success.

I realise, therefore, the vital importance of a frequent schedule of air services between the west of Ireland and Heathrow. That overcrowded and unpopular airport is nonetheless Ireland's best point of contact with the rest of the world because of its onward connections.

The termination of services from Shannon to Heathrow will have its greatest effect in making it much more difficult to attract that kind of investment in the future. Apart from the loss of existing jobs, thousands of jobs that might have been created will not materialise. It will be impossible to quantify what might have happened. As a result, those who cause this situation will claim that they are not to blame.

The Shannon region was, and is, one of the few successes in real decentralisation we have. Will it now remain so? Spending hundreds of millions moving junior civil servants down the country is no substitute for real economic activity.

The Minister for Transport, among others, is espousing a version of company law with which I am not familiar. He seems to think that management is supreme, to the exclusion of all others. The Companies Acts envisage the board of directors as responsible for the actions of a company. The board in turn is answerable to the shareholders. The shareholders have the ultimate sanction of dismissing the board if they disagree with the company's policy.

Why retain a blocking minority if it is not going to be used to stop the very sort of thing that we were told it was kept for in the first place? President Sarkozy retained for the French state a blocking minority of shares in the recent merger of Suez and Gaz de France. Does anyone think he would refuse to use it in a similar situation to this? - Yours, etc,

DESMOND O'MALLEY, Merrion Road, Dublin 4.

BoE should have let Northern hit the Rocks

The Bank of England should not have bailed out Northern Rock .

Fiscal Prudence may seem boring but it’s an essential prerequisite for any serious financial institution and its customers.

Prudence doesn’t come free. It limits management’s capacity to “take a punt” and thus they may seem to miss out of profit opportunities in rising markets. It also means that prudent institutions are contributors to industry-wide insurance schemes such as FSCS, even though they will never need to call on such insurance.

The Northern Rocks, on the other hand, are the “wide boys” of the financial services business, claiming to be innovators, mould-breakers, more customer-focused than their fuddy-duddy competitors. Often lauded by the media who take their every press release at face value.

Northern Rock has been operating a dangerously unbalanced business model, the dangers of which have been recognised by banks for generations: using short-term deposits and interbank loans, repayable on demand or within a relatively short period, to fund 20-year mortgages leaves you seriously exposed if confidence in your bank is in any way damaged, and/or market conditions change.

The sub-prime credit crunch was unforeseen, but it’s only one of many events which might have precipitated Northern Rock’s current liquidity problems.

The Bank of England should not have bailed Northern Rock out. The business is solvent and depositors funds should not be in any real danger, even if depositors were alarmed and temporarily discommoded by a closure. In such a scenario, Northern Rock would have been bought by a competitor within weeks, if not days. However, the message to the other “wide-boys”, and the public who do business with them, would have been stark. The management team and board of directors would be immediately unemployed and their professional reputations in the industry would be destroyed. The shareholders would be looking at even greater losses, making the likelihood of investment in similar enterprises unlikely for some time to come.

By bailing Northern Rock out, the Bank of England instead sends the signal to Wide-Boy management that it’s OK to keep sailing close to the wind - and they will keep doing just that. Meantime, the prudent serious players will continue to fund insurance schemes to protect their competitors customers.

Northern Rock - Irish Govt intervention?

Northern Rock depositors in the Republic are covered by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

However, compensation under the FSCS scheme is limited: 100% for the first £2,000 in savings and 90% for the next £33,000.

On savings above £35,000 you get nothing.

In other words, the FSCS pays out a maximum of £31,700 per person. Yet we’re told that the average Northern Rock deposit in the Republic is €100k, which is approximately double the amount covered by the FSCS.

In those circumstances, should Finance Minister Brian Cowen be offering such reassurance to Irish depositors?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Eddie Hobbs & Brendan Investments

Eddie Hobbs has already had wide media coverage for his new property investment vehicle, Brendan Investments Pan European Property PLC and he’ll be a guest on the Late Late Show tomorrow to put the icing on his PR cake.

The aim of the Company is to raise €50m in capital and borrow a further €150m to create a property investment portfolio worth €200m. The prospectus says that “the company will work with current and future bank lenders to secure bank finance AT A MINIMUM LEVEL OF 75% of the value of the property.”

Page 12 of the prospectus covers the fees payable by investors:

The fees will be as follows:
= No entry fees.
= 1% of the gross asset value of the company is payable to Brendan Investments Property Management Limited for the management of the property and development portfolio.

Assuming that the company succeeds in raising €50m and investing it with 75% gearing, the gross asset value of the company would be €200m. At this level the 1% fee payable to the management company would be €2m annually.

The prospectus advises that the expected life of the company is 7-10 years, at the end of which period the assets will be liquidated and distributed to the company.
This suggests that, even if there is no capital appreciation from the property assets purchased, the management company will receive €14m-20m in fees. If the value of the underlying assets increase, the annual fee will also increase pro-rata.

Assuming the company makes only the initial call on investors, one would assume that they will try to invest the funds raised fairly quickly, within the first 12-18 months? Some development projects may take longer but the company strategy is to invest 75% of funds in existing rent-producing commercial properties.

An annual fee of €2m may be reasonable in the initial couple of years when management activity will be at its maximum, but in the later years of the scheme, when little new investment is being undertaken, it seems like a tidy little earner for the promoters.

An annual charge 1% of Gross Assets, rather than 1% of the investors capital, is a way of disguising the real annual 4% charge being levied by promoters. This approach is not unique to Brendan Investments.