Tuesday 20 February 2018

Five things I really hope won't happen during 2014

Richard Curran
Richard Curran
Richard Curran

Richard Curran

1. The banks need more money

After splashing out €62bn on dead and barely alive Irish banks, a major stress test is due next year to determine whether our banks need more cash.

If you take away the dead banks, it just leaves Bank of Ireland and AIB. The State is on track to make a good profit out of Bank of Ireland, and despite its rating downgrade last week, if it does need more money, it may be able to raise it on the markets.

AIB is a more tricky proposition. If it needs more capital, it may have to come from the State.

There is still a few quid left in the National Pension Reserve Fund, but it would be very hard to sell the idea to the public.

2. Government messes with the property market

The property market is doing a lot better than many expected as recently as 2012. And Michael Noonan needs to leave it alone.

He has already slashed stamp duty on commercial property deals, when it was questionable whether it was needed or not, and given Capital Gains Tax exemptions. These measures are just financial cream on what are otherwise compelling opportunities.

Please Michael, don't interfere with it any more. Noonan may be tempted to secure short-term price rises because it would improve the balance sheet position of the banks in the stress test.

This might, in theory, save the State money, but equally it could be stirring up more trouble.

3. Credit unions get carved up by the regulator

Hopefully, the debacle at Newbridge Credit Union, and some others, will not be used as an opportunity by the Central Bank to go too far in fixing the credit unions. They need to preserve some of their local ethos and not just become the new mid-tier of the banking sector.

4. More Irish plcs are taken over

After the decimation of recent years one might have thought there weren't that many publicly listed companies left to take out. But there are always a few.

And while I am in favour of acquisitions and letting corporations do their thing, we need more sizeable Irish-based, Irish-managed companies on the exchange, not fewer. Both pillar banks could be taken over within the next five years. We need something left.

5. No changes at ESB

Now we have a new buyer for Bord Gais, it is time that the ESB was broken up. The Government could simply sit back, breathe a sigh of relief that there won't be an ESB strike this December, and do nothing.

But the fact the country nearly went into blackout over a pension that is financially secure, should not be forgotten. It is time to introduce more competition into the market and break up the ESB.

Irish Independent

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