Tuesday 23 January 2018

The Punt: A bright light in the East returns to BT Ireland

BT Ireland has hired Ciaran Barr as chief financial officer for its all-island operation.

Mr Barr returns from South Korea where he was formerly an executive with Hyundai Capital / Hyundai Card, a joint venture between GE Capital and the highly successful Korean car maker. He had been deputy chief executive and a director of that firm.

His posting in Korea capped a long career with GE Money, before heading east he had been CEO and CFO of GE Capital Restructuring Operations Group at GE Money Ireland.

Prior to that he had been with the same group in Paris and chief accountant for France and Switzerland with TUI Travel.

The chartered accountant is another example of Irish people who have made their name in Asia rather than the more traditional destinations of Britain and the US.

Dublin native Dermot Boden was the first westerner to reach the "C" level with a Korean company when he became chief marketing officer with LG before moving to Citigroup two years ago, while Liam Casey is a household name in China with his firm PCH.

The Punt reckons Mr Barr won't be the last of the Irish to seek his fortune in Asia.

It's plain sailing for €787k tobacco chief Burrows

The Punt has been intrigued by the furore in England following the government's intention to delay plans for the introduction of plain cigarette packaging.

The decision maddened health campaigners. Needless to say, tobacco firms didn't like the idea (already introduced in Australia and plans afoot here for same) in the first place.

A representative of Philip Morris, which owns brands such as Marlboro, told UK health mandarins that there was "limited evidence" as to the success of plain packaging in Australia.

The Punt wonders what former Irish Distillers boss and one time co-chief executive of Pernod Ricard Richard Burrows thinks. The Dubliner (and former Bank of Ireland governor) is chairman of British American Tobacco (BAT), the world's second biggest tobacco firm. It sold 694bn cigarettes last year – almost 100 for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Lynton Crosby, David Cameron's election coordinator runs a lobbying firm whose clients include Philip Morris and BAT, and has been at the centre of the packaging row. "Of course, we operate in a highly regulated sector that many regard as controversial," Burrows tells shareholders in BAT's annual report. "Acting responsibly makes good business sense and we set high standards for ourselves, our suppliers and our trade customers."

The chairman was paid a total of £680,000 (€787,000) last year by BAT, and also gets a driver, medical insurance and is eligible for GP 'walk-in' services. He also owns 10,000 BAT shares, currently valued at £346,000. Nice work if you can get it.

Soaring Smurfit's filing raises eyebrows

Packaging group Smurfit Kappa, headed by chief executive Gary McGann (pictured), releases first-half results in a couple of weeks. The share price has rocketed of late on the back of expectations that the company is poised for greater things. So The Punt's interest was piqued by a seemingly innocuous filing this week with the Companies Registration Office.

The filing, by Smurfit Kappa Packaging Ltd, details a special resolution made by the firm: "That the giving of the financial assistance referred to in the statutory declaration by a majority of the directors of the company dated July 11, 2013, be and is hereby approved and authorised notwithstanding that the giving of the assistance may constitute financial assistance by the company for the purpose of or in connection with the acquisition of the entire share capital in the company."

The Punt wonders what all this legalese means?

Economic superhero required to fill Finance vacancy

THE DEPARTMENT of Finance is recruiting a new chief economist, after the job has been vacant for the past 18 months. Its last chief economist was NUI Maynooth's Jim O'Leary, who was brought in on secondment in 2010 but was not replaced after his departure in 2011 despite the crisis.

By the sounds of the job description, they are hoping for some kind of economic superhero. The successful candidate will be "an indisputable credibility within their field" who will be tasked with building the Department's profile as "a global leader in economic policy development". Of course, that assumes that the Department of Finance already has this kind of reputation, which we're not sure everyone would agree with.

The successful applicant will report directly to Secretary General John Moran.

Only those who think they can turn the country around should apply – the individual will have the chance to "contribute directly to the recovery of Ireland's economy."

That's a lot of responsibility for one pair of shoulders. Of course, the Department does note that the job is a "challenging position."

This kind of candidate doesn't come cheap, but the Punt thinks those interested will be moderately pleased with the six figure pay packet that comes with this job – the maximum starting salary is between €136,000 and €143,000, depending on the individual's pension status.

Irish Independent

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