Friday 24 November 2017

TH€ PUNT: Aer Arann may yet fly high

Aer Arann has had plenty of difficulties in the past couple of years.

The airline's chairman, Padraig O'Ceidigh, has done a stellar job at promoting not only the carrier, but also himself, despite Aer Arann having seemingly been in perpetual crisis mode since the volcanic ash crisis of 2010.

But that culminated in examinership for the carrier later that same year. It emerged from the scrape with UK logistics firm Stobart owning 5pc of the business and O'Ceidigh having close to 70pc.

All its aircraft now operate under the Aer Lingus Regional brand, having signed a franchise deal with the larger airline in 2010.

At least from the Aer Lingus perspective, it's proved successful. In the year to November, Aer Lingus Regional carried 927,000 passengers, a third more than a year earlier.

But Aer Arann has continued to struggle. An auditor's report just filed in respect of the 2011 financial year points out that there is a "material uncertainty" about Aer Arann Group's ability to continue as a going concern.

Lucky for the airline then, that the Competition Authority rubber stamped Stobart's plans to increase its stake in Aer Arann to 45pc this week.

That will result in fresh investment for the airline, and advance plans to buy new aircraft.

It will also see O'Ceidigh's stake in the airline diluted. But maybe, at last, it's heading out of financial turbulence.

Bank lending claims a farce

THE latest figures from the Central Bank show that lending to SMEs continues to decline – indeed the pace of the decrease is speeding up.

A €330m drop in lending over just three months makes a farce of claims by some banks that loans are there for the asking by small firms.

Access to credit is crucial – never more so than when income is strained as it remains for many companies in Ireland.

Unfortunately, the circumstances that make lending – overdrafts in particular – so crucial also make it harder for banks to part with their cash, especially banks that are rightly pilloried for terrible lending decisions made in the past.

The Punt thinks that restoring liquidity to the SME sector will eventually happen through a break with the banking model of the past, not a return to it. Unfortunately, that breakthrough has yet to happen.

Vodafone Ireland boss on the move

Vodafone Ireland boss Jeroen Hoencamp is leaving these shores, according to an internal memo sent to staff recently.

The popular Dutchman is moving to London where he will replace UK enterprise director Peter Kelly, who is leaving the company.

The Vodafone-lifer has lived here for a little more than two years, and has overseen the restructuring of the company's board and Vodafone's bid for a 4G licence.

The licence windfall produced a nice Christmas surprise for the Government when it raised far more than expected.

Mr Hoencamp was among a group of Vodafone executives who competed against one another in the Dublin City Triathlon.

Around 80 Vodafone staff tried to outrun, outswim and outcycle two executive teams led by Mr Hoencamp and business and enterprise director Anne O'Leary, who is an experienced triathlete.

Vodafone has been engaged in a worthwhile attempt to promote healthy activity among staff and has a three-year sponsorship agreement with Triathlon Ireland.

The fitness fanatics must be hoping that his successor is just as eager to compete.

Irish Independent

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