Saturday 16 November 2019

TH€ PUNT: Christmas comes for Flybe

The Punt asked Flybe chief executive and chairman Jim French (pictured) this week if the Ryanair offer that would see his airline receive about €150m in cash and ticket sale proceeds was like suddenly finding out that Santa Claus is real.

He didn't really answer, but surely he must have had a bleary-eyed wonderment when approached by Michael O'Leary about the idea that Flybe would be gifted half of the Aer Lingus short-haul routes and a mountain of money all for nothing.

Mr O'Leary, of course, has no qualms about dressing up as Santa when needs be.

Even the brochure to the international aviation conference in Dublin before Christmas at which Mr O'Leary and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar exchanged caustic barbs, contained a profile pic of the Ryanair boss dressed as Saint Nick himself.

But whether Mr O'Leary can deliver the presents to Flybe is the question. With Aer Lingus having posted strong 2012 results, one wonders whether the €1.30 a share offer Ryanair made last summer would be sufficient to even entice those Aer Lingus shareholders who might consider selling to him.

Mr O'Leary has already made it clear that he has no intention of upping the offer. But perhaps he's feeling so munificent now that he might rattle his piggy bank to see what else is in there?


Seamus is Conroy golden boy

THE Punt was taken by surprise yesterday when it read of Seamus FitzPatrick's appointment as non-executive deputy chairman of Conroy Gold and Natural Resources.

Mr FitzPatrick – who was already a non-executive director with Conroy – is chief executive of CapVest, the private equity firm which among other interests owns Valeo Foods, the parent of the likes of Bachelor's Beans, and is chairman of the Mater Private Hospital.

For a man who made his name in the City of London, a board position with a company that has been looking for gold in Co Monaghan for years without much notable success is surprising to say the least.

This won't be Mr FitzPatrick's first adventure in the mining business. He already sits on the board of Karelian Diamonds.

His appointment is a coup for company chairman Richard Conroy, who was effusive in his praise for Mr FitzPatrick. "I am delighted that he has agreed to become deputy chairman. I look forward to his advice and support in future years as the company moves from exploration to production."

Quinlan not playing to media

DEREK Quinlan, once the go-to man for investors across the professional classes, has been commenting on the media coverage of his life in London again.

While the former tax inspector has not been in court for the latest round in the battle for three of London's landmark hotels with developer Paddy McKillen, his views have been lodged in legal documents to the Court of Appeal.

Mr McKillen is appealing a judgment last year which went against him after he accused Mr Quinlan and the Barclay brothers of breaching clauses in a shareholders' agreement.

The lengthy case, which was before the High Court for 30 days last year, brought up a number of features of Mr Quinlan's lifestyle, most notably about the amount of money he has received off the brothers in recent years.

In his submission to court this week, lawyers for the founder of Quinlan Private said he and business associate Gerry Murphy were subject to "hostile" cross-examination from the McKillen side, which focused on the size of a rented house in Switzerland and what type of car he owned.

"Much of that cross-examination was directed to the journalists present in court, and the case generated a large amount of press interest in this country and in Ireland," said the submission.

Not that commenting about media coverage is new to the Quinlan camp. In court last year, his barrister Stephen Auld QC, took a sharp swipe about how the Irish media referred to his client in print.

Irish Independent

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