Business Irish

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Th€ Punt: Paying long-overdue homage

THE Central Bank has not lost the capacity to surprise. Yesterday, it announced that it would hold a board meeting in Galway next week and look after some other business, including the issue of a new coin that pays homage to the late Percy Metcalfe.

Metcalfe is the English artist, sculptor and designer who created the beautiful and wonderful coins that served us almost from the foundation of the State until the introduction of the euro.

A celebration of Metcalfe's designs are long overdue. The one-time Leeds art student, who won a competition in 1928 chaired by William Butler Yeats, gave this country one of the simplest and most dignified coinages in the world.

His horses, rabbits, salmon and bulls made a clear statement that we are not another monarchy or a society wedded to war and the past.

While most people think of his coins as quintessentially Irish, Metcalfe was a designer for hire who also produced coins for Australia and created a portrait of King George V, which was used as the obverse for coins of Australia, Canada, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. Later, he designed car mascots.

For reasons that puzzle The Punt, the Central Bank has opted to celebrate him by commissioning a new silver coin designed by Emmet Mullins that depicts two dogs.

Readers will have to decide themselves whether the bank would not have been better off just re-using a Metcalfe design.

Anybody wishing to buy the coin should remember that the bank may write learned articles about productivity but does not necessarily practise what it preaches; the Central Bank's shop is open from 10am to 3.30pm and will only accept cash.

Turbulence from ex-Ryanair man

MICHAEL O'Leary was in usual form at yesterday's aviation conference in Dublin and once again claimed the future for Aer Lingus was bleak unless Ryanair took it over.

But dissent came from an interesting source in the shape of former Ryanair director of operations, Conor McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy joined Aer Lingus at the tender age of 16 as an apprentice avionics engineer and eventually headed up its 'Commuter' arm.

He left there in 1996 to join Ryanair and exited that airline in 2000. He subsequently co-founded the successful Malaysia-based AirAsia low-cost carrier, and in 2009 established Dublin Aerospace, an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul business at the airport.

But Mr McCarthy said that competition was essential for Ireland. "We've two strong airlines in competition," he said. "Two competitive airlines are better than one single-monopoly airline. Competition is what makes it work."

He also pointed out that Dublin Aerospace had won business by remaining competitive with international rivals. Every quarter, 20pc of its profits are split between its 245 workers.

The company had been profitable for the past nine quarters, he said. There's no overtime, but each month every team within the firm has a chance to earn performance-related pay.

The bulk of staff are on contracts, typically working six-day weeks in winter, when airlines get most maintenance done, and having more time off in summer.

Surely food for thought for union leader David Begg, who was there to address delegates on 'Improving our Efficiency: Human Capital'.

Bono's punt just the job

WHEN Bono and the rest of U2 were starting out in a band that may have ended as quickly as it started, it is unlikely that investing in trendy media and technology companies was on the radar for them.

Cut to today, and the U2 frontman is one of the highest profile investors in tech. His investment firm Elevation Partners may have a mixed track record – phone maker Palm and Forbes Media had notable issues – but it redeemed itself spectacularly with its punt on Facebook.

The company cashed out shares worth $275m (€210m) when Facebook went public and has retained a stake worth hundreds of millions.

When Bono and The Edge invested in Dropbox it was a nice story in itself, but it's a lot more serious now that the company has decided to set up shop here, creating 40 jobs in the process. The firm was quick to highlight Bono and The Edge's efforts to persuade it to come here.

Bono gets a lot of stick for being "more than a rock star", but in this case at least we should be thankful for his efforts.

The Government and IDA work hard to get investment here, but sometimes it helps to have one of the biggest names in the world fighting your corner as well.

Irish Independent

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