Tuesday 28 January 2020

TH€ PUNT: Just call him Professor Lyons

ONE of the extraordinary aspects of the property collapse in this country – which, after all, was one of the worst in the western world – is the dearth of academic study on the crash.

House prices have been dropping like a stone for five years, with average values having now halved.

David Duffy in the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) used to produce studies on the market, but has since moved to producing ESRI's quarterly commentaries.

That leaves Ronan Lyons  of property website Daft.ie as one of the few we can call a housing economist in this country.

He is only months away from completing a PhD thesis on the Irish housing collapse at Balliol College, Oxford.

So The Punt was heartened to see that young Mr Lyons – he is only 32 – will be an assistant professor at the department of economics at Trinity College, Dublin, from September. This position used to be called lecturer in the old days, before universities here started adapting American titles.

He is not giving up his work on property asking prices and rental costs at Daft, but he will continue to focus his academic beady eye on the property market.

Asked yesterday when the property nightmare was likely to be over, he just laughed.

It seems there will be plenty for the young economist to work on for a while yet.

Bailey joins Greencore board

The Punt was taken aback by the news that Sly Bailey is joining the board of Greencore.

For those not obsessed with media companies, Ms Bailey is the former chief executive of Trinity Mirror, the owner of the 'Daily Mirror' newspaper.

Once the head of magazine group IPC at the age of 37, Ms Bailey became something of a 'bête noire' for staff at the Mirror. Infamously, she saw her pay increase, even as revenues at the media group fell. When she left the top job a year ago, it was reported that she was not exactly missed by many staff.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet claimed she had done "the decent thing" by "leaving the company she has led into monumental decline". Ms Bailey is currently a non-executive director of Ladbrokes and a governor of the English National Ballet School. Commenting on the appointment, Greencore chairman Gary Kennedy pointed to Ms Bailey's "deep operating knowledge, wide public company board experience and an energy and insight to our agenda".

The comment may set hearts racing among Greencore's rank and file. At the Mirror, she had a reputation for being a relentless cost-cutter. The Punt isn't sure what Ms Bailey knows about sandwiches and ready meals, but her presence will certainly keep chief executive Patrick Coveney on his toes.

Cracks in Philips' Ocado deal

Wicklow native and former Brown Thomas boss Dalton Philips has been sailing through some pretty choppy waters since his appointment as chief executive of UK multiple Morrisons in early 2010.

Under his tenure, the UK's fourth biggest grocery chain has been suffering, losing market share to rivals including Asda and Sainsbury's. The difficult market is evidenced in Tesco's travails, too.

The deal Morrisons unveiled yesterday with online retailer Ocado aims to help the chain regain lost ground. Morrisons already sells non-food items online, but this will extend its offering to food and drink.

But the ink is barely dry on the contract and already it's being questioned. "We think that the deal is easily a better one for Ocado than it is for Morrisons," said analyst Philip Dorgan at brokerage Panmure Gordon.

"The agreement lasts for 25 years which seems unnecessary to us, given the pace of change online."

Indeed, it does appear extraordinarily generous of Morrisons to sign such a lengthy agreement when it's effectively impossible to know how the online market – both through technology and customer preference – is going to evolve over such a time frame.

Shares in Ocado soared well over 30pc at one stage yesterday, while those in Morrisons barely budged. Philips' father once owned the Ballyfree Eggs business, so he knows all about the dangers of counting chickens. With Ocado, he'll be hoping he's cracked it.

Irish Independent

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