Sunday 24 September 2017

The Punt: It's not quite a Tiger but Celtic Cub is stirring

Frank Gleeson
Frank Gleeson
Charlie McCreevy

THE Punt did something yesterday it hasn't done in at least four years. Yes, you've guessed it, we spent the day at a hotel property conference. The conference in the Doubletree by Hilton Hotels Burlington Road (The Burlo to you and me) saw about 200 industry figures come together to discuss issues in the industry and where it is going.

The conference was the first of its kind since at least 2009 and covered a huge number of topics. The market is accelerating, with around 3pc to 4pc worth of churn in the market -- close to the normal rate. Investors are poring over Ireland from all over the world. Interest has come from as far afield as Malaysia and other parts of the Far East, but most of the money has come from the US in recent years.

We found ourselves at a table of American investors who were happy to tell us they thought there was great value in Ireland, and Dublin especially, but proved less forthcoming when asked for specifics.

CBRE's head of brokerage for UK and Ireland, Paul Collins, perhaps summed the sector up best. "There isn't a Celtic Tiger, but perhaps there is a Celtic Cub," he told the conference.

Quite.

Gleeson's a key ingredient

ARAMARK Ireland has appointed Frank Gleeson to help steer the food giant's Irish operations. Mr Gleeson joins the US company from Topaz where he was retail director.

Aramark is not a household name, but it employs 4,000 people here and claims to serve 250,000 meals daily to companies, the public sector and universities.

"His experience in facilities management, property management and food services will be very beneficial to us as we continue to expand our business in Ireland," said Aramark boss Donal O'Brien.

Before joining Topaz, Gleeson was vice-president Retail of Statoil Ireland, operations director of O'Brien's off-licence group and group sales manager for Xtravision. He is a national council member of IBEC and chairman of Retail Ireland.

Duke falls down property rich list

Spare a thought for the Duke of Westminster, who has been knocked off his perch after more than a decade as the UK's richest property investor.

The duke has taken the top spot in the 'Estates Gazette' Rich List since 2002 but has been replaced by Wang Jianlin, who is China's richest man according to Forbes. He usually flies below the radar here in Ireland, but he came to prominence here earlier this year when he bought the Sunseeker yacht company from an Irish-led consortium.

He also splashed £700m (€835m) on the Battersea Power Station, which once belonged to Treasury Holdings.

Charlie remains popular as ever

CHARLIE McCreevy is clearly not a man who lets an opportunity go to waste. The former Fianna Failer and EU Commissioner for Internal Markets has just been appointed to the board of yet another financial services company, Dublin-based Virtu. He's also on the board at payments technology company Sentenial (handy, since he was one of the architect's of the new EU system for e-payments) and at another of our favourite companies, Ryanair.

Mr McCreevy was obviously not affected by a previous difficult experience with board membership. Following his departure from the commission, he was forced to resign from the board of a banking firm, NBNK Investments, after an EU ethics committee found a conflict of interest.

Virtu makes its money from facilitating trading and "market making" -- quoting both a buy and a sell price for a financial instrument or a commodity, hoping to make a profit on the difference bid-offer spread. One of the world's biggest companies in this field, it opened its European headquarters in Dublin earlier this year. Mr McCreevy is in good company at Virtu -- its chairman is Brooklyn native Vincent Viola, who among other things, owns the Florida Panthers ice hockey team. We bet Charlie is boning up on ice hockey as we speak.

Irish Independent

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