The Punt: KPMG spreads cheer as it shuts for festive period
THE festive season really is infectious. Fairy lights, presents, carols, mulled wine -- everywhere you look there's something nice to buy, or listen to, or drink. And KPMG staff are having a particularly good run of it, since the latest business person to be caught up in this general good mood is KPMG's new Irish managing partner Shaun Murphy, who took over from outgoing managing partner Terence O'Rourke in May.
Mr Murphy has decided, despite the accounting firm's hard-nosed corporate image, to shut up shop for more than a week this year and give staff a nice long break. KPMG Ireland will close for Christmas this Friday and won't open up until December 30 -- an unprecedented amount of time off compared with previous years.
In fairness, the firm has had a pretty good year; it's no wonder Mr Murphy is being extra nice to his staff. As special liquidator to IBRC, it is currently embroiled in one of the biggest accounting gigs the country has ever seen; the Irish business community waits for decisions by Keiran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson with bated breath.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan recently revealed the company has received an impressive €22.29 from NAMA alone in the last three years. Globally, results are looking good too -- the company's global revenues this year were $23.4bn, its highest ever.
ECB seeks best woman for job
Most organisations these days at least try to pay lip service to gender balance.
The Federal Reserve has gone further with the appointment of the first women to head the Fed. The European Central Bank is, as usual, a little behind. In the history of the ECB, only two women -- Finland's Sirkka Hamalainen and Austria's Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell -- have served on the board.
That's why Germany is under pressure to replace Joerg Asmussen on the ECB's executive board with a woman, following his decision to leave early to spend more time with his family.
The leading candidate is Sabine Lautenschlaeger, a German bank supervision expert with no monetary policy record. Other names being mentioned include Elke Koenig of German financial supervisor Bafin and Claudia Buch, president of a leading economic institute in the city of Halle.
While it may seem crazy to appoint somebody on the basis of gender, it does raise the interesting question of who we could nominate if pressed to appoint a woman. With the departure of Fiona Muldoon, the Central Bank is looking particularly low on talent when it comes to the fairer sex.
Magnier's relief at mine ruling
There's been a bit of festive good cheer down Under -- at least for horseracing tycoon John Magnier.
The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has recommended that the expansion of an open-cut coal mine near the Coolmore stud there be refused.
The decision has come as a major blow to resource giant Anglo American, which owns the mine where 500 people are employed.
The commission said that both Coolmore and another stud called Darley should be afforded the highest level of protection from mining and be recognised as essential to the broader horse industry.
One of the coal seams is just a few hundred metres from the Coolmore property in Hunter Valley, which is run by Mr Magnier's son, Tom.
The stud has involved a massive investment -- it is more than 3,340 hectares and is home to 1,000 horses.
"We thank the PAC for taking the time to understand our industry, the considerable threats to our future, to our employees and to our globally recognised critical equine cluster posed by the Drayton South mine proposal," said Tom Magnier.
Anglo American said it was disappointed with the decision and that it was a severe blow for its workers.
It claims to have offered A$6bn (€4bn) worth of compromises to reduce the planned expansion's impact.
Australia's resource industry is under pressure with weaker demand in China having hit the sector.