Saturday 20 January 2018

PUNT: Double Dutch to Dijsselbloem

IT'S a U-turn that was remarkable for its speed. A reverse ferret if ever there was one.

A matter of hours after the Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem spooked the markets by suggesting the Cypriot rescue deal should be a template for other bailouts, he issued a statement rowing back.

The Punt, and many other commentators across Europe, were left scratching their heads, pondering what exactly the Dutch Finance Minister was doing.

His comments to Reuters news service and the 'Financial Times' were too direct to be simply a slip-up, but one source has said the issue was not discussed at the late-night talks on the Cyprus crisis. The blunder is no doubt an embarrassing one for Mr Dijsselbloem.

The influential Alphaville blog at the 'Financial Times' has even suggested he should lose his job.

"We could blame all this on too much coffee and not enough sleep, except that Mr Dijsselbloem has a little too much form on this front. And he's only been in the Eurogroup job since January," wrote blogger Paul Murphy.

The coming days will give Mr Dijsselbloem an opportunity to elaborate on his comments.

With billions, possibly trillions, of euro at stake, he'll have an avid audience.

Puttnam's Karl Marx moment

Film producer David Puttnam has invoked the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, or possibly Karl Marx, to raise the spectacle of a new "tyranny of (digital) capitalism" if the likes of broadcaster BkyB is allowed to dominate the European airwaves.

The Skibbereen-dwelling, UK-born producer of movies like 'Bugsy Malone' and 'Midnight Express' was appointed as Ireland's "digital champion" last year.

The media adviser, pictured, quoted an apocalyptic warning at a seminar on press freedom in Dublin last week.

"As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

The Punt's not sure if he attributed those words to Abraham Lincoln, as many authorities do, though the Punt reckons it's a sentiment that Karl Marx would have been proud of.

The Academy Award-winning former Columbia Pictures chief executive has repeatedly spoken out against proposed takeovers of British news companies by Rupert Murdoch – though just who will take over such businesses otherwise is a question that has yet to be answered.

Europe's failure to regulate "creeping" market dominance means competitors like BT have little chance against growing giant BSkyB, which he reckons could be the dominant EU broadcaster very soon, he said.

NAMA gets its judgment

It is nearly 10 years ago to the week since The Punt watched former Olympic swimmer Stephen Cullen take the stand at the Master's Court as a liquidator behind a company connected with the development of Dublin's Paramount Hotel sought a determination regarding the firm's beneficial owner.

Stephen Cullen had denied in court at the time that his brother, David Cullen, was the beneficial owner of the company, called Hocroft.

A number of companies, including Galway building contractor JJ Rhatigan, claimed at the time that they were owed an outstanding total of over €1.2m for work carried out on the hotel.

They also insisted that as far as they were aware, David Cullen, not Stephen, was the person in charge of the development.

Last week, David Cullen, had a summary judgment totalling €29m granted against him in the High Court by NAMA in relation to loans attached to the hotel and an adjoining bar, the well-known Turk's Head.

The loans had been acquired by NAMA from the Bank of Ireland. David Cullen is now living in London and awaiting a decision on bankruptcy there. It's due on April 9.

No doubt there was schadenfreude in some quarters last week as NAMA secured its judgment.

And in case you're wondering, Stephen Cullen managed to rank 27th in the 200-metre 1988 backstroke event at the Seoul Olympics.

Irish Independent

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