It's not all bad news out there
Despite being caught in the currents of the credit crunch, 2008 wasn’t awful for everyone
REELING from the punches of its first full-blown recession in 25 years, Ireland 2008 was a very different animal to the cheeky Celtic Tiger of the earlier years of the millennium. But despite the growing dole queues, there were still some happy cubs rambling about.
Limerick teen triumph
Two brothers followed Euromillions winner, Dolores McNamara, last March when they added their names to the Limerick millionaire list.
Patrick and John Collison were in their teens when their software company, Auctomatic, was sold to the Canadian internet commerce firm, Live Current Media, for a reported €3.2m. The Collisons were two of four main shareholders in the US-registered company.
Flying high Down Under
Dublin man Alan Joyce took the helm of the largest airline in Australia last month after the Qantas chief executive, Geoff Dixon, retired. Joyce worked with Aer Lingus before moving to Australia in 1996. In October 2003, he became chief executive of JetStar -- a low-cost carrier owned by Qantas -- before being announced as chief executive designate of Qantas in July.
Airtricity founder Eddie O'Connor was no doubt a bit miffed in the dawn of 2008 when his bid to take full control of his wind energy company failed. Airtricity was put up for sale in November 2007 and O'Connor was beaten in the takeover race by British energy giant Scottish & Southern Energy, who bought the company for €1.8bn. O'Connor's windfall from the sale must surely have knocked any disappointment on its head however -- he reportedly pocketed between €50m and €60m from the deal. This was small change though compared to the €820m to €850m made by National Toll Roads (NTR), which had a 51 per cent stake in Airtricity. Had Airtricity gone up for sale a year later, the windfalls pocketed by O'Connor and NTR would undoubtedly have been a lot less.
The Fyffes' settlement
In April, the fruit distributor Fyffes and DCC settled their long-standing legal action, agreeing that DCC would pay €41m compensation to Fyffes and various institutional investors. Fyffes received €37.6m under the settlement. The insider dealing saga unfurled in January 2002 when Fyffes took a High Court action against DCC, Jim Flavin -- the founder and executive chairman of DCC, and two subsidiaries. In July 2007, the Supreme Court found that DCC had inside information on the fruit distributor when it sold its stake in Fyffes for €106m in early 2000.
In August, the contract cleaners, Noonan Services, was sold in a €90m management buyout backed by the British private equity company, Alchemy Partners. The company's founder, Noel Noonan, was one of the main beneficiaries of the deal, as were other members of his family.
The German advance
With the recession in full swing, shoppers are flocking to Lidl and Aldi. By autumn, about seven out of ten Irish households had shopped with the German discount stores, according to the consumer research firm, TNS Worldpanel Ireland. The latest TNS figures show that Lidl and Aldi have seen their share of the grocery market increase from 6.9 per cent on November 4, 2007 to 7.3 per cent on November 2, 2008.
Rivals, such as Tesco and Superquinn, have meanwhile lost market share.
The Joshua Spree
In March, U2 signed a 12-year-deal -- valued at more than €190m -- with Live Nation, giving the concert promoter the rights to U2's merchandising and touring up to 2020 -- when the band will be in their 60s. As part of the deal, the band pocketed shares worth €25m lining Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono and Larry Mullen up for plenty of beautiful days in retirement.
After a four-year planning battle, hotel and planning tycoon Jim Mansfield got the go-ahead for his €90m convention centre in City West. An Bord Pleanala gave Mansfield the thumbs up in July after a number of changes were made to the application for the centre by the Mansfield Group, which owns the Citywest Hotel. The centre will house over 4,100 delegates and will cost between €70m and €90m.
Primark was one of the few to beat the gloom and doom this year. Primark's parent, Associated British Foods (ABF), enjoyed a 17 per cent rise in profits to stg£233m (€246m) for the year ending September 13, 2008. ABF's sales also increased by 21 per cent. Its rivals had much different fortunes -- Marks & Spencer issued a profit warning in July and Debenhams saw its profits dive by 16 per cent.
With the euro hitting record highs against sterling, Southern shoppers invaded the North for cheap drink and bargains -- much to the delight of bed and breakfast owners on or near the border, and retailers in Newry, Co Down. The deluge of shoppers became so intense at one stage that Irish banks started to run out of sterling.
The Clonmel-based Kentz engineering group floated on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in February. In mid-December, its shares were trading at just over stg£1 (€1.06). Although about 10p to 15p lower than the company's share price when it first floated, Kentz's share price has not taken the battering that other Irish companies, such as Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, have. At one stage during the year, Kentz's share price hit almost stg£2 (€2.12).
Busy blues bees
With a flood of companies going to the wall, liquidators and debt collectors have never been busier. Some liquidators saw their business almost doubling over the year while the debt collection agency, Intrum Justitia, saw demand for its early arrears management service -- where it steps in to recover a company's unpaid debts -- triple. With builders going bust, repossessed jeeps, cranes and dumpers have flooded auction houses -- much to the delight of bargain hunters who could snap up gas guzzlers and fancy sports cars for half price.