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The Punt - Thomas Piketty hits the headlines again


Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty is in the headlines again. France's star economist has given two fingers to the French establishment by declining the country's highest honour.

The star economist shot to fame and topped the bestseller lists last year for his lengthy and controversial book on wealth and inequality. His book, 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century', attracted both praise and invective on its way to the top of the bestseller list.

Together with Nobel Economics laureate Jean Tirole and Nobel Literature prize winner Patrick Modiano, Piketty was named on Wednesday on a list of new recipients of the Legion d'Honneur, awarded by President Francois Hollande.

But he refused, saying the Government should focus more on growth.

"I refuse this nomination because I don't think it's up to a government to say who is honourable," Piketty said.

"They would do better to focus on reviving growth in France and Europe."

That's a bit of a kick in the teeth for Hollande, who is struggling to ensure France's economy can meet strict EU debt and deficit rules.

It also goes to show how much relations have soured between Piketty and Hollande's government.

Once close to France's ruling Socialist party, Piketty has become very critical of the French president.

In June, he told 'Le Monde' newspaper that there was a degree of "improvisation" in Hollande's economic governance that was "appalling". Piketty's latest comments will do little to boost Hollande's popularity.

Water problems for Glanbia

As the furore over water charges continues to bubble along, the Punt notices that dairy group Glanbia has been having its own water issues in Idaho.

It has large cheese and whey manufacturing facilities in the so-called 'Magic Valley' area of Idaho, in the south of the state. In December, Glanbia announced that it would spend over $80m (€66m) on new facilities at two sites in Idaho, creating about 50 jobs. Glanbia employs over 1,200 people in the US.

The chief executive of Glanbia's US cheese arm, Jeff Williams (who retired last week), said future expansion in Idaho was already anticipated by Glanbia, but that it would depend on increased milk supply, which in turn is dependent on the availability of water to grow more forage.

Early last year, Magic Valley businesses and cities in the region had to strike a deal with, of all things, a fish farm in the state that has a water right dating back to 1962 and which needed more water. The businesses and other stakeholders were told their water supply could be curtailed unless they sealed an agreement with the fish farm. It was, and last month a new pipe was being built to pump more water to the fish farm.

Life is never dull in the cheese business.

McEniff bet not yet a winner

Seaniemac.com, the Irish online gambling firm launched by Sean McEniff in 2013, fell foul of US regulators last year, recently filed third quarter accounts show. The company, which is a stockmarket minnow in America, agreed with the Securities & Exchange Commission to pay a $50,000 (€41,600) fine for failing to file its annual report, and two quarterly reports, on time.

It's a big financial hit for such a tiny company. Third quarter accounts for Seaniemac show that it expensed the $50,000 during that three-month period, as it continued to rack up losses. The accounts show it made a net loss of $798,000 in the third quarter, bringing the total to $1.6m for the first nine months of the year, compared to a $892,000 loss in the first nine months of 2013.

Seaniemac is backed by Mr McEniff, the son of Donegal hotelier Brian McEniff, as well as Rina and Diana Chernaya, daughters of Russian oligarch Michael Chernaya.

It has also had other financial difficulties in the past year. The accounts show that in October, Seaniemac was issued with an event of default redemption notice in respect of a $227,000 note. It had secured a forbearance agreement that was due to expire on December 10 - but the price was an interest rate increase, bringing that rate to an eyewatering 22pc.

Indo Farming