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Al Gore's investment firm trims its stake in Murtagh's Kingspan


Al Gore

Al Gore

Al Gore

An investment firm chaired by former US vice-president Al Gore has trimmed its stake in Kingspan to 5.89pc.

Generation Investment Management's stake in the company had previously been as high as 12pc.

The Irish building materials company announced the transaction on the London stock exchange on Thursday.

Mr Gore co-founded Generation Investment Management with David Blood, a former managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Mr Gore's company wants investors to pay more attention to sustainability issues like climate change.

Data filed with the Nasdaq shows that at the end of last year Mr Gore's firm had stakes in companies including Google, Microsoft, Amazon and eBay.

It also had stakes in Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, a company that makes replacement heart valves, Sirona Dental Systems, which makes digital dentistry equipment, Chinese medical equipment maker Mindray Medical, and online e-commerce platform Mercado Libre.

Part of the company's profits are returned to Mr Gore's Generation Foundation, which gives grants to companies making the transition to a "more sustainable form of capitalism".

The foundation wants to put an end to the practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance.

"Quarterly earnings guidance can create incentives for executives to manage for the short-term and encourage some investors to overemphasise the significance of these measures at the expense of the longer-term," a statement on the foundation's website says.

"Ending this default practice in favour of only issuing guidance as deemed appropriate by the company (if at all) would encourage a long-term view of the business rather than the current focus on quarterly results."

It also says companies should offer investors financial rewards for holding on to shares for a long time.

"This practice encourages long-term investment horizons among investors and facilitates stability in financial markets, therefore playing an important role in mainstreaming sustainable capitalism."

New Irish lender was inspired by Ugandan microfinancing

MICRO-lending in Uganda was the inspiration behind Grid Finance, Ireland's new peer-to-peer lender.

Founder and chartered accountant Derek Butler (32) came up with the idea while working as GOAL's head of finance for Uganda, where women rely on community loans to set up small businesses.

Dublin lunch chain KC Peaches is the latest business to raise money from the Irish public via the online platform.

It allows businesses to advertise their need for loans and small investors to make offers at an interest rate of their choice.

Now Grid Finance has signed a deal with European loan administrator SFM to protect customers in case it should run into commercial difficulties.

"If anything happens to Grid Finance, our lenders and borrowers can be assured that someone else will be there to manage the loan book," said founder Derek Butler.

Butler, from Castlepollard in Westmeath, founded the company with business partner Sean O'Riordan, a former associate director at KPMG.

Investors include Kilcullen Capital and Eoin O'Neill, professor of entrepreneurship at Trinity College.

"We're doing exactly what peer-to-peer lenders do in the UK, where the industry is regulated. They are required to have contingency loan administrators in place in case anything goes wrong.

"We are pleading with the Central Bank to do the same. A regulatory roadmap for non-traditional lending is urgently needed," said Butler.

"There is a straightforward model in the UK that can easily be copied. If an EU regime is introduced that's great but there is no excuse to wait around for it."

Peer to peer finance has very low adoption rates in Ireland, Butler said.

"Regulation will breathe confidence into it. It's good for businesses and the economy."

Butler qualified as a chartered accountant with PwC Ireland and also worked with Goodbody Stockbrokers before moving to GOAL. He worked in Haiti as well as in Uganda.

"Micro-lending works fantastically in northern Uganda. Groups of 12 to 20 people, usually women, set up what are known as VSLAs - village savings and loan associations - to pool their money and lend it out to each other.

"The default rate is almost zero. There is hundreds of them and it is driving the countries forward."

Butler established Grid Finance shortly after returning to Ireland in 20123.

KC Peaches has raised €55,000 via the site; uniform maker Happy Threads raised €10,000 - and coffee business The Art of Coffee raised €7,000.

"All are well established, sound businesses who could have used banks have decided to do something different. Peer-to-peer lending allows them to access finance faster, more easily, at a reasonable interest rate."


Sunday Indo Business