Tuesday 20 March 2018

The Punt: Secret trio of US philanthropists revealed

David Gelbaum
David Gelbaum
AIB's David Duffy

STATESIDE, it has just been revealed that a trio of hedge fund managers have secretly been donating one of the largest pools of philanthropic capital ever seen. An investigation by Bloomberg found that US hedge funders Andrew Shechtel, David Gelbaum and C Frederick Taylor – the co-founders of low-profile investment firm TGS Management – have anonymously donated an astonishing $13bn to charity.

To avoid the deity-like fuss that surrounds billionaire philanthropists – Bill Gates comes to mind – they went to great lengths to mask their support of human rights, the environment and disease research, using a web of trusts and lawyers to hide their names.

Just think if a similar scheme was unveiled on Irish soil! Who would be the most likely candidates, The Punt wonders? Has Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher been secretly funding free mortgage advice services? Has Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy been helping out online gambling rehabilitation programmes? Has Facebook Ireland director Sonia Flynn been funding internet privacy research?

Pfizer bosses to face grilling

IT WILL be a very different day at the office for the bigwigs at Pfizer when they are hauled before British lawmakers for wanting to take over drug-maker AstraZeneca.

Scottish-born chief executive Ian Read and AstraZeneca's French CEO Pascal Soriot will be among the figures grilled live on the internet tomorrow by the UK Parliament's science and technology select committee.

But poor old Pfizer are getting it from both sides – with US politicians accusing the multinational of wanting to move its legal address to the UK for a lower tax rate while keeping its head office in New York.

One of its top executives took an unusual, if not unprecedented step, of penning an article in the 'London Evening Standard' in defence.

"Appearing before a committee of MPs is certainly a first for me, but I'm actually really excited to have the opportunity to explain why I think a Pfizer-AstraZeneca combination would benefit patients around the world and strengthen the UK's life sciences industry," wrote Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer president of worldwide R&D. Pfizer has vowed to put a fifth of its research staff in Britain if the proposal is passed.

Let's hope that's not bad news for its 3,200 workforce in Ireland.

AIB 'slap' for shareholders

AIB pinned an interesting little note to the end of its lengthy interim management statement (IMS) yesterday.

The note was a reference to the insanely high price of AIB shares and all but slaps deluded investors on the face and tells them to cop themselves on.

"Based on the number of shares currently in issue and the closing share price of Friday, 9 May 2014, AIB trades on a valuation multiple of c.8x* 31 December 2013 Net Asset Value (NAV). The bank notes that the median for comparable European banks is c.1x NAV," the statement said.

The crazily high valuations implied by the AIB share price – remember only a fraction of 1pc of shares aren't in state hands anyway – have prompted the 'Financial Times' to dub it an "eejit" trade. AIB's David Duffy, below, told us yesterday that there is actually very little he and the bank can do without overstepping the line into interfering with the market.

"What we do is keep reporting the facts," he said. The reality is that trading in the shares will remain dysfunctional until there is a large enough free float to allow for decent liquidity which should lead to more rational valuations.

Meantime, as temptation grows to see the ever lower yields on Government bonds as evidence of "Crisis Over", the AIB shares are a gentle reminder that markets don't always get it right.

Irish Independent

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