Business Irish

Sunday 19 November 2017

PUNT: Banks sow seeds for future

Forget Commerce or Finance if you want to get ahead in banking – it's farmers' favourite Ag-Science that is the must-have graduate degree.

Bank of Ireland tells us they have just beefed up their farmer-focused team by snapping up new hires from Ulster Bank and ACC/Rabo.

Sean Farrell, head of Bank of Ireland's agriculture unit, has hired Pat Byrnes and Susan Maher, both ex- ACCBank, and John Fitzgerald from Ulster Bank.

All are joining as agri-specialists with the bank, which is increasing lending with an eye on the end of the milk quota system in 2015.

All three are agricultural science graduates from UCD.

The farming and food sectors are enjoying a bit of a boom, even taking into account recent bad summers and the fallout from the horse-meat scandal.

The bank approved €500m of new and increased lending to the agri-sector over the last year, it says. That helped it meet the Government's target to lend €3.5bn to small and medium-sized enterprises last year, a category that includes farmers. That target has now been lifted to €4bn.

Bank of Ireland wants to increase its share of lending to farmers, including by keeping branches open in market towns to maintain direct links with farm owners across the country.

The latest hires will cover Leinster and Munster for Bank of Ireland.

That includes the country's dairying heartlands, which once upon a time produced the mix of local banks that eventually merged to form AIB.

More exploration for Craven

JOHN Craven rides again. The former Cove Energy chairman has been a busy man since the exploration firm was sold to Thailand's PTT for about $1.9bn (€1.5bn), what with his investment in Irish firm Fastnet Oil & Gas and a number of other projects.

Now Belfast-educated Mr Craven, along with fellow Cove veterans Michael Blaha and Michael Nolan, are looking to raise about €39m as part of their new company, Discover Exploration.

Discover Exploration is following a similar path to Cove, which earned the three men a small fortune after it got into a huge gas field in the Rovuma Basin offshore Mozambique.

Now Discover will be looking for gas close by, hopefully with the same results. Around 10pc of Cove's shareholders were believed to be Irish. They were brought in by Dolmen Stockbrokers and those same shareholders are likely to back Mr Craven again.

An old hand of the oil and gas business, Mr Craven made his name in this country as the founder of Algeria-focused Petroceltic and has gone from strength to strength since.

The Punt reckons there will be plenty of takers when he starts knocking on doors around Dublin and The City.

So, not everyone's welcome

WE open our arms to anyone who wants to declare themselves Irish. In this year of The Gathering, we welcome our esteemed Diaspora home.

But there's one person the Government might not so readily claim. It's emerged a German hedge fund manager who fled more than five years ago with $500,000 (€383,613) stuffed in his underwear and luggage was also the holder of an Irish passport.

Florian Homm was taken into custody earlier this month at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and now faces a raft of US charges. Homm is accused in a criminal complaint, filed on March 6 in federal court in Los Angeles, of defrauding investors in hedge funds he controlled, causing $200m in losses.

He is charged with four counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud and faces as long as 75 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Perhaps he could give the Government some tips on stashing away a few quid.

Irish Independent

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