Sunday 21 January 2018

Could Carrickmines tempt retail dynasty?

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

NAMA has just put its first shopping centre portfolio on the market and it has an intriguing history as well as an interesting future.

The portfolio of five malls is worth a combined €100m. The golden egg is Carrickmines retail park in south Dublin which is much loved by middle-class parents who haunt the aisles of PC World and TK Maxx.

It was bought in 2007 by property developer Liam Maye, who was also involved in Dundrum Town Centre. Maye died unexpectedly in 2008 and his loans, including debt connected to Carrickmines, passed into NAMA.

But his property legacy lives on. Maye's son-in-law is Alan Hegarty, who married daughter Emma. Today, Hegarty is a director at a newly registered company called Shearer Property Ireland. Shearer was set up in May with the sole purpose of... you guessed it, developing retail parks.

Could his son-in-law step in to fulfill the late Liam Maye's plans? Hegarty certainly has the right team behind him to do it. Shearer's other directors include ex-Bank of Scotland Ireland boss Maurice Pratt, who also sits on the board of Brown Thomas. Then there is Guy Shearer, the man lending his name to the venture. This very affable Englishman has been developing shopping centres in the UK since 1995.

But they may not be the only horse in the race, if indeed they race at all.

A source tells me that rumours are swirling about a brand new REIT which will be set up specifically to invest in retail assets. REITs are listed investment vehicle introduced last year which have only been used so far for offices. A retail rendition isn't the only REIT rumoured (forgive me) - there's also rumours of a REIT being set up to invest in nursing homes.

Just 15pc of KPMG directors are women but they're trying

GENDER diversity is the buzzword in boardrooms at the moment, with global giants such as Twitter and Google bowing to pressure and releasing the breakdown of their staff figures to the public. I'm afraid the numbers aren't good.

It is a favourite issue of KPMG managing partner Shaun Murphy, who told me last week that the percentage of female directors at the audit giant is just 15pc.

"That's consistent with all of the Big Four and consistent across the globe," he says.

At the lower rungs of the company, the firm's base is evenly split - young female graduates are just as quick as the boys to realise that accounting is a lucrative career choice - while the numbers at management level in the middle is between 30pc and 40pc.

Still, he does not favour introducing gender quotas.

"We are a meritocracy and it is all about ability," he insists.

KPMG is considering introducing targets instead, as well as mentoring programmes at senior level. They don't, however, have a creche on site, nor do they have plans to build one. Space is tight when your headquarters is 
slap-bang in the middle of one of Dublin's most desirable streets.

Murphy should be applauded for revealing KPMG's gender divide and recognising the problem. Private companies have no obligation to do this and few do.

Of course, there is a reason why - when Twitter released its own numbers last week, the blogosphere collectively gasped. Around 70pc of their global workforce is male, increasing to 90pc among tech staff.

Irish going nowhere for now at Bord Gais Energy

GAELGOIRS were up in arms last week after Bord Gais Energy sent out a promotional letter to its customers in the Queen's English.

The letter to "valued Bord Gais Energy customers" offered a free boiler service now, ahead of the cold winter nights to come. Unusually though, the correspondence was sent out in English only - and not as Gaeilge as well, as had been the tradition. This immediately set tongues wagging, especially since BGE is now owned by UK energy giant Centrica.

The company is mandated to provide its terms and conditions in both languages - and if a customer requests it, BGE must provide bills and related correspondence in Irish as well. So was this a new policy? Had BGE dropped the mother tongue now that the Union flag was flying over the business?

Turns out there has been no change of policy at all. The company told me it "is very happy to provide any customer with bills and/or other written communication in Irish."

The promotional letter is not considered to be an official piece of correspondence, so the government legislation on communications in Irish does not apply. Indeed BGE went on to make plain that it has never provided the Gaeilge option for these types of promotional letters.

Many will argue that dropping Irish altogether would save BGE plenty of cash, and they may have a point. Still, it is nice to see our foreign-owned utilities remember where they have come from.

Sunday Indo Business

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