Wednesday 16 October 2019

The Punt: Denis O'Brien happy with Haiti hotel

Denis O'Brien pictured recently during an interview at the GETHealth, Global Education & Technology Health summit at the Printworks in Dublin Castle.
Denis O'Brien pictured recently during an interview at the GETHealth, Global Education & Technology Health summit at the Printworks in Dublin Castle.

The Punt

Digicel founder Denis O'Brien has predicted he will get a "good return" on his involvement in the design and development of the Marriott Hotel in Haiti.

He invested $45m in the project, which broke ground more than a year ago. In an interview with Bloomberg yesterday, he said he expected to lose money for most of the first year.

"We're investing $45m. We will probably lose money for the first six or nine months and then we will probably turn a profit," he said.

"We will get a good return on investment here no problem."

Digicel is the single largest private investor in Haiti, and the financial news wire was quizzing him as part of a report on investing in the Caribbean Island that was ravaged by a devastating earthquake in 2010. Digicel's headquarters are located next door to the Marriott.

"I just tell them my own experience," Mr O'Brien said, after being asked what he says to US CEOs when they ask about investing in Haiti.

"We're the largest foreign direct investor in the country," he said.

"We've had absolutely no issues setting up our business, we've had no red tape, our business has performed well and it's been a very good investment. So our experience is the example for everybody else."

Flying visit by Citi slicker

Citigroup's chief economist, Willem Buiter, paid a flying visit to Dublin yesterday, a year after proposing that Ireland should take advantage of the ability to borrow cheaply on the markets and use the cash to repay costly IMF loans early.

Finance Ministers almost always ignore economists so it was a surprise when Michael Noonan actually did just that last year, a decision set to save taxpayers an estimated €1.5bn.

So the Punt was curious to know what potential savings the Dutchman might have spotted this time around.

Alas, lightening failed to strike twice. The man from Citi didn't return with a new money saving scheme in his back pocket, though he was happy to admit his surprise at the out performance of the Irish economy over the past year.

One thing that peak our interest however, was Buiter's relaxed attitude to the rise of the radical left, including in Greece where Syriza may be poised to take power.

It would once have caused cold sweats at Citi. Buiter confessed his relative unconcern, not least because his own father had been a leftist.

Irish Independent

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