Thursday 26 April 2018

The Punt: Sit down and stay put or face a hefty fine

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
Johnny Ronan

IT may be a bit of a throwback to a stuffier era perhaps, but The Punt is a bit of a fan.

The venerable London Metals Exchange (LME) is no sloppy place to work. It has a strict dress code - suits and dark shoes - chewing gum is prohibited and the use of mobile phones restricted.

And that's not all. Traders were hit with fines recently because, wait for it, they stood up during turbulent trading. The LME is the last in Europe to use noisy open outcry trading, with arcane hand signals used to deal in copper, aluminium, lead, nickel and zinc in intense five-minute bursts in the so-called "ring".

Although apparently chaotic, traders are strictly forbidden to get up from the circle of padded, red leather seats that make up the ring.

But a few boisterous ones did just that recently, and were hit with total fines of more than £13,000 (€16,453). A spokeswoman reminded traders that the ring wasn't a "pit".

"Dealers that stand create an unfair advantage and might obstruct the view of other dealers and LME pricing committee members," she added.

Nine dealers trading copper were fined £13,750 and one was also suspended from trading for two days because it was his second offence within three months. First-offence dealers were fined £1,250, while second offenders got double that. One suspects they might be making enough money to cover it though.

Quick, back to your seats.

O'Brien's Digicel eyes TV offering for subscribers

Telecoms billionaire Denis O'Brien, who also owns close to 30pc of the publisher of this newspaper, has been talking to 'Institutional Investor' magazine about his plans for his mobile business Digicel.

He says that the company is increasing its capital expenditure this financial year by 30pc to about $550m (€408m) in order to develop its 4G network and to expand a fibre network that provides communications services to companies and governments. Digital and value-added services generated 23pc of Digicel's revenue last year, up from 20pc a year earlier.

"We just see opportunity to make investments in our networks, which will all generate more profitability and more income," Mr O'Brien said in the interview.

"We're obviously rolling out more and more 4G, expanding our networks, because there's a ferocious appetite for data," he added. "We're buying up cable businesses. And we're looking at television offerings across all our markets."

In one of Digicel's markets, Papua New Guinea, the firm has about 2.5 million users. Mr O'Brien said Digicel is looking at installing another 300 mobile masts there and also at providing between 14 and 30 TV channels to subscribers.

Overseas Colony for Dublin property market

There has been so much US money washing around the Dublin property market lately that you'd be tempted to think the Yanks were getting a bit blase about it all.

The impression could easily get out that cash-rich American funds have been essentially sending over their money for the various locals they have teamed up with to put to work.

Maybe in some cases, but Paddy McKillen and Johnny Ronan's American backers are stamping their imprint pretty firmly onto the company set up to develop a €40m site on Dublin's swish Burlington Road.

The site has been bought by a consortium of the two Irish property players, along with Colony Capital and UK based Development Securities (DevSec).

Three Colony Capital executives, including the $20bn property giant's chief investment officer Jonathan Howard Grunzweig, European co-head Jean Romain L'Homme and executive Stefan Jaeger, have now joined the board of the Irish company set up to build out the site.

Documents filed with the Companies Office show the three have joined Jodie Ronan, daughter of Johnny, pictured, and Development Securities executive James Simon Hesketh on the board of CDSR Burlington House Developments Ltd.

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