Business Irish

Thursday 23 January 2020

Ex-Bus Eireann chair raises $4m for Dubai tourism play


MaisonPrive is based in Dubai
MaisonPrive is based in Dubai
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Former Bus Eireann chairman Paul Mallee has certainly not been resting on his laurels since he moved on from the semi-state transport company.

Now based in Dubai, Mallee's new company, MaisonPrive, has just secured $4m in private investment to help it fulfil its plan to be the leading alternative accommodation provider in the United Arab Emirates.

MaisonPrive, which was founded a year ago by Mallee and his business partner Rami Shamaa, is a 'virtual hotel' operator that manages luxury apartments and villas, offering them to business and leisure visitors.

The company is understood to have a pipeline of over 100 units with an average value in excess of $1m. It aims to reach 500 properties in the next three years. Guests are offered the opportunity to live in their own private penthouse or villa in some of the swankiest parts of Dubai such as the artificial Palm Jumeirah archipelago.

The identity of the investor has not been disclosed, but Ergo understands that it is from within the hospitality sector. Mallee told me that the investment signalled confidence in the company's growth strategy and that it is positioned for rapid growth.

"This initial funding round recognises the potential of the business model we have built. It allows us to develop the infrastructure to support our scaling targets in the short run," he said.

NTR swoops on Mayo wind project in €50m move

It's been pretty quiet over at toll road operator turned renewables business NTR of late.

Ever since Tom Roche and family effectively took the wind business private a couple of years back, spinning out legacy assets into a separate company, there's been a marked absence of drama.

It's all most unlike the very public shareholder spat that was manna from heaven for business journalists back in 2014.

Instead NTR has been going quietly about its business and it has just added a 28-megawatt project in Mayo to its portfolio, that's expected to cost €50m, all told.

This is the last project for NTR's 'Wind 1' fund, and it is also looking to add projects to another fund which will invest in wind and solar assets.

NTR has had difficulties with solar assets in the US in the past so let's hope it's a brighter outcome this time around.

Paddy whiskey to step out of shadow in distribution switch

One of the biggest whiskey deals in Ireland over the last couple of years was US company Sazerac's takeover of Paddy whiskey from Irish Distillers in 2016. Sazerac is owned by a colourful businessman, William Goldring, dubbed the cheap liquor billionaire. He made his fortune by buying cheap brands, going big on marketing and stacking them in liquor stores across the US. When the big drinks companies chased luxury, with price tags to match, he chased volume.

Goldring, now in his mid-70s, has said little of his plans for Paddy - which was not a cheap purchase - and we can only assume the whiskey is taking full advantage of the demand for the spirit in the US. Back in Ireland, Dublin-based Hi-Spirits Ireland, a Sazerac subsidiary, will take over distribution of Paddy from Irish Distillers this July. Sazerac bought Hi-Spirits in Ireland and UK in 2016 and Paddy will join a portfolio which includes Southern Comfort and Antica Sambuca.

No doubt Sazerac hopes Paddy will shine when it steps out of the shadow of Jameson, Irish Distillers' brightest star.

  • The family of beef baron Larry Goodman has failed to win over Dublin city planners with its first version of an ambitious €100m redevelopment of the city’s Setanta Centre.

Ternary Ltd has lodged planning for an eight-storey office block, while Setanta Centre Unlimited is owner of the site and lists Goodman and his eldest son Lawrence, who heads the family’s property interests, as directors.

In a notice published last week, planners said: “There are very serious concerns regarding the proposed development in the context of its overall height, scale, bulk, and massing. The building in its current form will likely have a dominant and overbearing impact on adjacent properties and the immediate streetscape, including the setting of protected structures.”

The note said that “significant revisions and setbacks are required” to address concerns. This will be music to the ears of the Kilkenny Group, headed by Marian O’Gorman, which is among the objectors to the works. The Setanta Centre houses its flagship Dublin shop.

  • Before Aryzta sold its Cloverhill business in the US, wages were turning into a big issue. After immigration raids forced out 800 employees, one of its problems was replacing them. Upskilling workers might be a manageable challenge, but meeting the pay expectations of local US workers is another challenge altogether. Now that Aryzta has sold out of Cloverhill, taking a considerable financial hit in the process, that problem is solved — but I see wages in some of its European bases are on the rise.

The Hungarian-based bakery and frozen pastry franchise chain Fornetti — owned by Aryzta — is to bring in a pay rise of between 10pc and 15pc on May 1. Fornetti has over 800 employees in Hungary and it is one of the biggest employers in the Bacs-Kiskun county. As prime minister Viktor Orban was keen to proclaim during his recent election campaign, wages are surging in that economy. Indeed this will be the fourth wage hike at the firm since Aryzta bought it in 2015. New Aryzta CEO Kevin Toland must be wondering when enough will be enough.

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