Businesspeople are worried about a possible brain drain from the country if Sinn Féin ends up in coalition following yesterday's election. Various policy proposals in the party's election manifesto spooked business organisations such as IBEC, especially when it comes to an additional 5pc levy on incomes over €140,000.
Equally, Sinn Féin is talking about solving the health crisis by hiring more nurses, doctors and hospital consultants. Surely, given there are lots of unfilled consultant places, jacking up the income tax rate on high earners would make it even more difficult to attract suitably qualified people?
Bear in mind consultants are paid so much that a €250,000-a-year salary was described back in the boom as 'Mickey Mouse money'. Professionals like accountants, lawyers, computer programmers and those in the medical field could all be hit.
Another policy causing concern to business is the proposal to have a 15.75pc employers PRSI charge on incomes over €100,000. Employers argue this would create a ceiling on pay which would discourage bosses from paying anything above that amount. Again, in an economy with near full employment and competition for suitably qualified people, we may reduce our ability to attract professionals from abroad, while undermining competitiveness.
A couple of things are worth bearing in mind. Sinn Féin has no interest in attracting votes from that group of people.
Turkeys don't vote for Christmas and the idea of taxing these very high earners to the hilt is controversial among the business community, but very popular with others.
The levy on income over €140,000 would result in a total tax burden of 57pc, made up of 4pc PRSI, 8pc USC, 40pc income tax and a 5pc high-income levy.
Self-employed people earning over €100,000 are already charged a composite 55pc, which includes a 3pc levy.
Inevitably, the additional tax suggested by Sinn Féin would hurt more people as many very high earners are employees, rather than self-employed. If Sinn Féin were to end up in power, I doubt their coalition partners would allow this 5pc income levy measure to go through anyway. But it has been a popular message among those earning a lot less.
Flutter merger probe unlikely to prove a deal-breaker
What are the odds of the proposed merger between Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment and Stars Group going ahead unscathed? The market seemed to think the decision by the UK competition authority to probe the £10bn (€11.8bn) merger changed the odds a little. Shares in Flutter were down over 2.5pc during the week following the announcement and are down 10.9pc since early January. The merger would bring together Paddy Power, Betfair brands, and the owners of Sky Betting and Gaming.
The probe followed the UK authority's controversial last-minute intervention into a merger between food delivery platforms Just Eat and Takeaway.com, which forced them to reconsider the timetable for their deal.
The Flutter/Stars deal was announced last October and some kind of probe seems obvious. After all, brands controlled by the two make up around 40pc of the market in the UK and analysts have estimated that they control around 26pc of the overall online gambling market there. A merger of this scale deserves a look, but it is hardly enough to prevent it from going ahead. Previous betting mergers have involved remedies like selling off betting shops. It is harder to envisage how remedies may apply when the big market share is online. Do regulators force them to offload brands, which may easily be replaced by new ones? That wouldn't work.
There is some speculation the deal might also be reviewed in Australia, where they both have a big presence. But it is hard to see this mega-merger falling at the last.
FAI could be the winner in betting tax shake-up
Sticking with betting, the increase in the gambling levy to 2pc really was a winner for the Exchequer. The tax take increased to €95m last year. But most of the money still goes to horse racing and greyhound racing.
The greyhounds are now starting to look like hares at a coursing event as the industry faces a backlash from animal welfare scandals and the FAI is looking closely at new funding models. There is a case to be made, and no doubt it is about to be made by new FAI deputy chief executive Niall Quinn, that a slice of the betting tax could and should go to fund grassroots soccer.
A policy proposal put together in recent weeks makes the case for diverting 12.5pc of the betting tax to fund soccer around the country. This would have equated to €11.8m last year. Betting punters are wagering an increasing amount of money on soccer matches. The horse racing industry has a very strong lobby, while greyhound racing is looking a little lame.
An RTÉ investigation found thousands of greyhounds are being destroyed because they aren't fast enough, while funding was withdrawn from four tracks before Christmas following an independent review. The report was carried out by Indecon Consultants, which recommended a radical overhaul of the greyhound industry.
They said track attendances fell by 55pc between 2008 and 2018, and there were further significant declines in the latter half of 2019 following the RTÉ Investigates documentary. The State has doubled funding to the FAI as part of a bailout.
The association, with its new structures, board and senior personnel, is better-placed to make a case for a slice of betting tax.
O'Leary eyes debt-free Ryanair
Does Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary know something about the bond market nobody else seems to? O'Leary said he doesn't want to be like all other airlines and simply repay debt bonds with fresh bonds as they fall due. He doesn't want to be a slave to bond markets, but would rather be debt-free within five years.
This is ordinarily a prudent approach to take, but Ryanair's leverage is relatively low, with net debt of around €1.3bn and an average interest rate of just 2pc.
The airline's interest bill is relatively light, but O'Leary believes if he doesn't pay down the debt, he will be left with surplus cash that he doesn't want.
There is only so much you can spend on share buybacks. He also believes it would be better to be debt-free in five years' time, something which would enable it to pursue its future plans.
Presumably, he means it would free up money for acquisitions at a time when a downturn will present buying opportunities.
Or is he simply signalling that Ryanair is in rude health? Despite the difficulties with the Boeing 737 Max, the more immediate issue of coronavirus and the threats from the EU to introduce higher taxes on flying, O'Leary wants to make it known the company is so strong it could be debt-free by 2025, while owning its own aircraft.
The bond market is awash with cheap cash. Ryanair raised €750m on the markets at just 0.65pc. Businesses in some sectors are raising 30-year money from European institutions at just 3pc.
It is an unusual time to talk about going debt free.
Sunday Indo Business