Thursday 22 February 2018

David McCourt plots his new Dublin-based telecoms empire

David C McCourt's personal fortune was estimated to be $750m in 2012
David C McCourt's personal fortune was estimated to be $750m in 2012
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

US telecoms group Granahan McCourt is planning to relocate the European headquarters of its telecoms empire to Dublin.

Founder and chief executive David C McCourt, who hails from Boston but has a house in Clare, wants to create and sell broadband technology to the developing world from Ireland. The move would create hundreds of highly skilled jobs in Dublin, he said.

McCourt's long-time business partner, Walter Scott, is also involved. Scott sits on the board of Warren Buffett's famed investment company Berkshire Hathaway and runs one of the world's largest energy companies, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

A consortium of McCourt, Scott, Doyle Hotel Group founder John Gallagher and US investment firm Oak- Hill Advisors have already bought Irish businesses Enet and Airspeed Telecom. Enet builds fibre broadband infrastructure while Airspeed is a business-to-business telecoms provider.

Now McCourt, whose personal fortune was estimated to be $750m in 2012, wants to bring other parts of his business to Ireland and unite them with these firms.

This could include a satellite terminal plant, an engineering facility and other manufacturing facilities. A final decision has not been made but will be decided before the summer, he said.

"We still have some conversations to be had with some of our management team and some of the businesses located in other parts of Europe."

The company is also in consultation with the Government, he said. The business will ultimately sell mainly into the developing world - Asia, the Middle East and Africa - where it sees the greatest opportunity.

"There are three and a half billion people without internet access. They are who we are more interested in. We can export some of that technology out of Ireland."

It is only active in Ireland for now but the model will be expanded overseas, he said.

Any growth will take place in Dublin, McCourt added. The regions are threatened by the potential takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG, he added.

"We're a global business - it has to be easy to get in and out. You can't run an international business if you don't have a real airport. Those slots are valuable and they could use those slots for any reasons.

"Businesses do what is in their self interest. The interests of the west is to make sure they have the most connectivity possible... London is a hugely important global hub."

Many of the jobs provided by foreign investors in Ireland have been too portable, he added. "The intersection between product development and engineering are the high-end jobs," he said.

McCourt was complimentary about the Government's national broadband scheme, which will provide hundreds of millions in subsidies for the provision of high-speed broadband to rural Ireland.

"It's very forward-thinking, very forward-leaning. I think the Government has been very very bold... it took a lot of guts because it is a lot of money, but I think it is absolutely the right thing. But I think the Government needs to make sure that the money doesn't go into a monopoly.

"There was a network built on the back of taxpayers - Eircom - and even though it is not owned by taxpayers any more, I think it's important the network be made available to all interested parties."

Sunday Indo Business

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