Thursday 14 November 2019

The Punt: Denis O'Brien looks into the crystal ball at Davos

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien

The Punt

Businessman Denis O'Brien is one of several Irish regulars at Davos along with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Peter Sutherland.

The 56-year-old Digicel founder, who has been going to the resort for a decade on his Gulfstream 650 jet, was one of at least 100 billionaires heading to Davos this week.

The Irishman told Bloomberg for a survey that the US Federal Reserve won't increase rates soon. "Everything is too tender at the moment," he reckons. That means Fed won't increase rates "until late 2015 or the beginning of 2016 at the earliest".

He added that the trade relationship between Russia and the West is the greatest geopolitical issue.

"The US and Europe have the wrong approach on Russia," he said. "The big issue here is whether the EU, US and IMF will help Ukraine prevent a default. If Europe doesn't stand firm with the Ukrainians, the country will melt down." He added that if he had $100m to invest, he would put $60m in Yandex, which operates the biggest search engine in Russia, and $40m in mobile-phone operator VimpelCom. On oil, he predicts a price of $60 a barrel by the end of the year.

The Intel on Ireland's US President

Eamonn Sinnott - Intel's general manager in Ireland - is the new head of state at the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.

Sinnott takes over from Paypal's Louise Phelan and will work alongside chamber chief executive Mark Redmond - a jolly giant who is one of the Punt's favourite characters.

Sinnott is also a vice president of Intel and joined the company in 1991. He has held various managerial positions both in Ireland and the USA.

Before joining Intel, he worked as an engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation and as a manufacturing manager at Nuvotem.

He's been on the board of the American Chamber since 2007.

Sinnott has an MBA from UCD and did his undergrad in science at Trinity.

"The key area of skills and talent will be a top priority for the American Chamber during the year ahead.... this is probably the most competitive aspect in the fight to attract new investment and Ireland needs to be 'battle ready', he said.

He's also a board member of the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN), at Trinity.

McGann flying high with accolade

The Punt wonders what former Aer Lingus chief executive Gary McGann makes of all the goings-on at the airline these days. It's 17 years since he left the carrier to take up a post as chief financial officer at paper group Jefferson Smurfit, which eventually morphed into its present incarnation, Smurfit Kappa.

McGann is now chief executive at Smurfit Kappa of course, and no doubt never looked back. Not long after he left Aer Lingus, it was mired in the fallout of the 2001 terror attacks, with current IAG boss Willie Walsh then filling the Irish airline's hotseat and slashing costs to help it survive.

Meanwhile, McGann has just been named the European CEO of the Year for the second year running by RISI, a global provider of information to the forest products industry. He was nominated for the award by a group of investment analysts and portfolio managers.

"He has shown sterling leadership and Smurfit Kappa has been performing exceptionally well," said one analyst on selecting McGann. Shares in Smurfit Kappa, which employs 41,000 people in 32 countries, have risen 10pc in the past year.

In keeping with the aviation theme, Smurfit Kappa has just made (and successfully flown) a life-size aircraft made of corrugated board for a Dutch TV station. You can find it on YouTube.

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