Thursday 22 February 2018

The Punt: It's going to be a tough job -- but someone's got to do it

Deirdre Somers

WE bet this is one job they would have preferred to recruit for on the sly, but there's no getting around transparency rules on civil service appointments. The department of Revenue is seeking to fill an important new job -- a senior specialist role in corporate and international taxation.

It makes sense that this division is recruiting, doesn't it -- Ireland's stance on international tax affairs has never enjoyed more scrutiny than it does today.

Every direction you look there's a US senator, or someone high up in the IMF, or just a plain old member of the Irish opposition showering abuse on our stance on corporate and international tax.

"Are you looking for a rewarding career at senior level in a dynamic organisation that offers a wide variety of interesting challenges?" the snappy job description asks.

The rest of it was all a bit wordy for The Punt's taste, but we gather that it will involve lots of work on transfer pricing -- which happens when a parent company and a subsidiary trade with each other, as when a US-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola, for example, buys something from a French-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola. When the parties establish a price for the transaction, they are engaging in transfer pricing. Abuses of the system, known as transfer mispricing, mean governments lose out on tax revenues.

It's all very topical. Let's hope Revenue finds someone who knows what they're doing.

Somers makes a good point

DESPITE the ailing Irish Stock Exchange's well-publicised problems, noobody can accuse formidable chief executive Deirdre Somers of going quietly into the night.

The exchange has lost some huge names in recent years as companies like DCC, Grafton and Greencore abandoned it in favour of listings in London, but Ms Somers is still doing her best to drum up business.

Her latest move is a call on the Government to consider floating on the stock exchange the state assets that it wants to dispose of, instead of selling its stakes to private buyers.

She makes a good point -- this would allow public participation in state assets and give the Government the flexibility to retain as much or as little ownership as it likes -- both desirable qualities.

She picked a canny time to make her request public, too -- just a day after the Government announced that its attempts to sell Bord Gais had fallen flat.

"The government seems to think at present that the only option for any assets within state control is to sell to the highest bidder. This is not the case," she said.

Penneys is a winner for ABF

Associated British Foods (ABF) has been a winner for shareholders who bought in a year ago. The stock has risen in London from just under £15 (€18) to £22.70. The owner of Primark, which trades as Penneys in Ireland, is a diversified group, with interests in grocery, sugar production and agricultural products. But it is Primark, which has its HQ in Dublin, that has been the driving force in the past few years, especially as the brand is rolled out across Europe.

But UK-based PIRC (Pensions & Investment Research Consultants), which advises investors with more than £1.5 trillion (€1.8trn) worth of assets, has poured cold water on things at ABF, which is controlled by the Weston family. PIRC says that combined awards for executives, when its long-term incentive plan (LTIP) is taken into account, were excessive. With regards the new LTIP at ABF, PIRC says: "No performance targets have been disclosed and it is unclear how many targets and on what basis performance will be measured.

"This makes assessing the suitability of the scheme impossible and frankly frustrates shareholder accountability." PIRC has asked shareholders to oppose the new LTIP scheme at the upcoming ABF AGM and also to reject the remuneration report.

"There are concerns that this level of non-audit fees creates a potential for conflict of interest on the part of the independent auditor," says PIRC.

Irish Independent

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