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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Noonan makes killing in stock market punts

Big profits for Minister for Finance

Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for Finance Michael Noonan's stocks have gone up this year
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan's stocks have gone up this year

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan made a killing on his stockmarket bets in the past year, research by the Sunday Independent has found.

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Five of the six main stocks he has declared an interest in have soared in value since January 2013.

The Fine Gael politician has one of the most diverse investment portfolios of any member of the Dail, the latest Register of Members' Interests shows. The minister held stakes in two different agricultural stocks last year, according to the Register, as well as interests in several exchange traded funds (ETFs). These popular products allow investors to bet on the performance of a group of companies or commodities rather than one single company.

One of his investments, which tracks a group of US banks, jumped by 36pc in value since January 2013 as confidence in the US financial services industry returned. Another, which tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was up by a fifth.

Several new stocks appeared beside Mr Noonan's name in the 2013 register – the two agricultural products and a bet on the Lyxor Eurostoxx 50 ETF, a bundle of large European companies.

Only one of his investments fell during the year, a product which tracks the top 100 companies on the London FTSE exchange. But he has held a stake in this ETF since 2007 – and it has doubled in value since then. The performance of his portfolio represents a turnaround from 2012, when the minister got hosed on the stockmarket. His holding in a product called 'SPDR S&P Metals and Mining ETF' fell by 36pc in that year, while punts on US banking shares and the UK recovery also fell, albeit marginally.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton's investments also did very well last year, the Register shows, though Mr Bruton is only beginning to recover some of the ground he lost after several of his holdings were decimated in the wake of the recession. Mr Bruton's investments are heavily weighted towards Irish businesses – he has stakes in Bank of Ireland, Swiss-Irish food group Aryzta, building giant CRH, Smurfit Kappa, insurer FBD and building materials supplier Kingspan, as well as now-nationalised AIB and Irish Life and Permanent. Every single one of these stocks rose in value between January 2013 and January 2014, with some, like Smurfit Kappa and AIB, doubling.

The Register reveals a very different picture for both ministers' biggest challenger in the Dail, Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath. Mr McGrath registered no share holdings, property ownership or directorships at all last year. The only interest recorded was a study visit funded by Boston College in January 2013.

But the same can't be said for his Fianna Fail colleague Willie O'Dea, the party's spokesman for social protection. Prolific investor O'Dea has a whopping seven mining companies next to his name, including stakes in Irish exploration firms Dragon Oil, Ormond Mining, Galway-based Kibo and John Teeling-founded Botswana Diamonds, plus holdings in Canadian miners Lucara and Concordia and UK-based Union Jack Oil. Many of these stocks saw their value tank during the year.

Mr O'Dea also has an extensive property portfolio, with interests in Irish, US and UK property funds, and London media group Chime Communications. Minister of the hour Alan Shatter had just two shareholdings registered to his name last year – a stake in insurer Standard Life and a stake in Basta Holdings, a Clonskeagh-based building materials suppliers.

But his property holdings were less modest; the Justice Minister had interests in 14 properties, unchanged from 2012, ranging from central Dublin residences to homes in far flung corners of the US. In total the portfolio includes eight Dublin properties, four in Florida and two in England. These assets have all performed well of late – Dublin house prices rose 16pc last year, while Florida prices were up 17 per cent and UK homes rose by eight per cent. But property values in all of these locations are still far from boom-time peaks.

Health Minister James Reilly reported a similarly massive property holding.

His assets include nine separate sites, ranging from a derelict ruin in Balrothery in Dublin to 250 acres of farming land in Moneygall and a nursing home in Tipperary. The 55-bedroom Greenhills nursing home was recently put up for sale by the High Court to discharge a €1.9m bank debt owed by Mr Reilly and other investors.

Other prolific investors as revealed by the Register include Dun Laoghaire TD Sean Barrett, who has stakes in multiple insurance companies; Cork East TD Tom Barry has shares in Dairygold Co-Op, insurer FBD and AIB; while Independent TD Shane Ross has investments in Bank of Ireland, INM, road-tolling company NTR, and US and German government bonds.

Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney, meanwhile, has shares in a private wealth management group with an address at Merrion Square Dublin, and shares in a group called the "Coveney Family Investment Club".

Sunday Indo Business

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