Wednesday 26 April 2017

The Punt: What does €500m get you?

Michael Noonan,TD,the Minister for Finance at the launch of Activate Capital , a partnership between the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and leading global investment firm KKR at their offices on St.Stephen's Green,Dublin yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 28/7/2015
Michael Noonan,TD,the Minister for Finance at the launch of Activate Capital , a partnership between the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and leading global investment firm KKR at their offices on St.Stephen's Green,Dublin yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 28/7/2015

It's a bit of a running joke among hacks these days about how often we turn up for a fairly run of the mill announcement - 10 new jobs at a small firm, for example - and are greeted by a jubilant minister exclaiming about how great this all is and, by extension, what a great job he or her is doing as a minister.

This cuts both ways of course and the heads of the companies in question are only too happy to have the hotshot politician present.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan was at the Dublin offices of private equity firm KKR yesterday to announce a new €500m house building fund.

A big deal in fairness, and KKR's head of Europe, Johannes Huth, thanked the minister for joining them.

However for the press it was a different story.

After one question on the scheme, attention turned to the Irish Water debacle.

The KKR executives then had to watch for 18 minutes by our count as Noonan parried and jousted with the ladies and gentlemen of the press on a subject that had nothing to do with where Noonan was. We're sure the KKR team are worldly enough to know how the game is played but it would have been interesting to hear what they had to say after we had all left the building. Clearly €500m doesn't get you much attention these days.

Trying times for small firms

It costs 25pc less to do business in the UK than it does here, Small Firms Association director Patricia Callan told Jobs Minister Richard Bruton yesterday, as lobbying to level the playing field for SMEs intensified ahead of the October Budget.

The big push from start-ups in recent weeks has been to cut capital gains tax and other charges that hit entrepreneurs hardest, but with a minimum wage hike on the way the SFA boss honed in on employer costs.

"First and foremost we need to ensure that there are no more increases in the cost of employment, which is the biggest barrier to existing employers in creating new jobs," she told the minister.

Labour costs here are 21pc above the EU average and the total cost of being in business in Ireland is a quarter higher than in the UK, according to the SFA.

She also wants Government to develop specific policy proposals around second-chance entrepreneurship, which could help owners who have previously failed in business to pick themselves up and start again.

Now that's something that the Punt reckons should resonate with lots of politicians.

EU office to be ooh-la-la

It looks like the residents of European Union House on Dublin's Dawson Street are going to have no excuses for not keeping slim and trim.

The building is the home to the EU's mission to Ireland, and is owned by property investment firm IPUT, which has just asked Dublin City Council for permission to refurbish the building.

It wants to remove the existing brown brick facade and replace it with "buff brick", which the Punt assumes doesn't mean well-toned, muscular brick.

It also wants to replace some existing glazing and demolish the set-back fourth and fifth floors and build new set-back fourth and fifth floors finished in frameless glass. The interior will also get a makeover, with the removal of own-door offices to create open-plan office space on each floor (how will that go down?).

There will also be a retail unit/showroom on the ground floor, apparently.

But to keep the bods of the EU representation just as buff as the building's exterior, IPUT also wants to install a yoga studio and gym in the existing basement, along with showers and a locker room.

So the Punt expects great things from the redesign.

Irish Independent

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