Business Irish

Sunday 31 August 2014

PUNT: Anne O'Leary accepts the call

Published 20/02/2013 | 04:00

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THE white smoke has gone up at Vodafone Ireland, which yesterday announced that Anne O'Leary will be the company's new chief executive.

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A pair of able hands, she'll now have another reason to be among Ireland's most photographed businesswomen.

She was previously director of the telecom firm's enterprise business unit here, and joined Vodafone in 2008 from BT Ireland.

Her appointment also follows years where the CEO role in the company was held by foreigners.

Her predecessor was Dutchman and former naval officer Jeroen Horencamp, who steered the ship from 2010. He in turn had succeeded Charles Butterworth, who had held the post since 2007.

Now it's O'Leary's turn to make sure everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion, to keep with the nautical theme.

And O'Leary is well used to the water. The Corkonian is a keen triathlon participant, which involves punishing swims, runs and cycles.

A recent 70km cycle was followed by some warming hot chocolate, she tells Twitter fans. The day before, Woody Allen has just walked in front of the car in Skibbereen.

She'll have plenty of things to keep her excited at Vodafone though, not least of which are ensuring the company gets payback on the €161m it paid for 4G spectrum last November.

The company is also planning to invest €500m in its network here over the next five years. Might be a lot less time for triathlons.

David Duffy talks a good game

The AIB boss has been bigging up his bank's plans to deal with distressed residential mortgages this week.

He was in Galway telling staff and customers of plans to offer mortgage restructuring deals by the summer to some 33,000 customers who are unable to meet their home-loan payments.

His comments come as the Government and the Central Bank discuss moves to force the banks to tackle mortgage arrears.

Some four years into the mortgage mess, it seems that at least one bank is facing up to the situation and prepared to deal with it.

It all sounds great, but many are sceptical about the bank's grandiose plans.

AIB was unable to provide any figures yesterday on the number of long-term forbearance measures agreed with customers.

And people like David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, speak of frustration in dealing with AIB and its subsidiary EBS.

A meeting Mr Hall had with EBS executives this week, proposing a split mortgage for a family, ended up with the lender making a derisory offer to warehouse just €35,000 of the mortgage.

This all smacks of the situation with SME lending, where banks claim they are offering loans, but the reality turns out to be somewhat different.

The pressure will now be on Mr Duffy to deliver some real solutions to cash-strapped homeowners, instead of headline-grabbing rhetoric and box-ticking exercises.

Laughing all way to the bank

Readers of a certain age will remember the cheeky Arthur Daly character from 'Minder', who was "laughing all the way to the Leeds" in TV adverts as he promoted the Leeds Permanent Building Society.

While that society has since vanished, having been subsumed by Halifax, another Yorkshire institution, the Leeds Building Society still plies its trade.

The firm released results yesterday that were very bankable. Its pre-tax profits for 2012 rose 4pc to £52.4m (€60m), while its assets increased to a record £10.3bn (€11.9bn).

Its net residential lending hit £737m (€849m) in 2012 – more than double the amount in 2011. So why does the Punt care about this? You see, the poor Leeds Building Society is another of those UK institutions that found the lure of the – brace yourself – Celtic Tiger too hard to resist.

In 2006, it opened up an office in Dublin to start doling out mortgages. It still has that office today, on Upper Fitzwilliam Street.

"We don't currently offer any mortgage loans in Ireland," the website says pointedly.

In its results, the society tells shareholders: "We no longer have any treasury or sovereign debt exposure to the 'peripheral' eurozone countries of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece or Spain." Its Dublin office is still quite content to take your money to put on deposit, however.

Irish Independent

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