Wednesday 7 December 2016

Dunne tees up good year

The Punt

Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30

A Ben Dunne gym in Dublin
A Ben Dunne gym in Dublin

Ben Dunne has been a regular visitor to the Connemara Golf Club at Ballyconneely near Clifden over the years. He's been spotted swooping in his helicopter on previous occasions.

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He and his entourage were back on the course last month, the Punt's spies inform us, with Dunne holding court later at the Abbey Glen Hotel. As they imbibed a couple of post-round drinks, he weaved business tales to regale his fellow golfers and anyone within earshot.

He was also urged by a senior member of the golf club to sponsor what would be the first Atlantic Way golf tournament, so we'll have to see what comes of that.

A retail source told the Punt that during his days at Dunnes Stores, Ben Dunne's golf outings were the stuff of legend, with impromptu trips to Spain for a round or two.

Now a gym king, Ben Dunne is of course intently focused on health and well-being. There are seven Ben Dunne gyms in Dublin, two in Liverpool and one in Manchester.

The gym business was definitely tough during the downturn, but accounts for some of Dunne's operations show healthy trading. He said over the weekend that operating profit at his gyms hit €1.5m in 2014.

He said the gyms enjoyed their two best months of growth in the past five years during March and April. and that membership growth rates for the two months were up 20pc on the same period last year.

Extra, Extra:  new web paper

A web-based newspaper is due to hit the streets soon with the launch of the 'Dublin Inquirer'. The start-up has been scouting for young hacks whom it hopes to pay minimum wage in return for the prestige of seeing their name online.

The "alternative newspaper" has been founded by Lois Kapila and Al McConnell.

Kapila's website reveals that she graduated from Oxford University with a degree in modern and medieval Russian, and came to Ireland in 2013 having travelled extensively. Al McConnell is a researcher on RTE Radio and a former editor of 'The Edition', the college paper of the Dublin Institute of Technology.

The 'Dublin Inquirer' has already got some backing - Boston-based Joel Tranum has stumped up €18,550 in cash for the newspaper venture. Liberties Press managing editor Sam Tranum is also helping the 'Inquirer'. He has worked with Kapila over the past few years on a few books.

The news website is due to launch in June.

Rusal digs deep to stay on top

Russian mining giant Rusal, owner of the Aughinish Alumina plant in Co Limerick, like most resources firms these days, has been having a challenging time of it. Lacklustre global growth has hampered demand for many metals, forcing miners to cut supply.

Rusal has been pulling the shutters down on aluminium capacity of late.

Last month, it said it could idle about 200,000 tonnes of capacity, having slashed 800,000 tonnes of production in the previous year.

That's partly due to weak prices, and also because Rusal is trying to shift some production to clean energy, rather than relying on smelting plants that use coal or oil.

But the depressed pricing environment hasn't stopped it advancing new projects.

Rusal recently opened a new bauxite mine in Russia's northern Urals.

At 1,550 metres below ground, it's the deepest mine in Russia and one of the five deepest in the world.

And the world's deepest? The Mponeng gold mine in South Africa, which is owned by AngloGold Ashanti.

It's now over 4km deep in parts.

A lift bringing workers to one part of the mine takes about four minutes to descend, travelling at a whopping 46 feet a second.

Irish Independent

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