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The Punt: Wage-hike calls unlikely to work


Jimmy Kelly, general secretary of the Unite trade union

Jimmy Kelly, general secretary of the Unite trade union

Jimmy Kelly, general secretary of the Unite trade union

Union boss Jimmy Kelly of Unite said we're not being paid enough, and claimed he has the research to back it up.

The Punt thinks that in our own case he's right, but we're not so sure about the rest of you.

Unite's regional secretary said "2014 should become the year of pay rises", which might endear him to union members but isn't likely to go down particularly well with employers.

Private sector wages here lag behind most of our peers in the group of 15 longest standing European Union members, according to Mr Kelly's research.

Hourly wages here average €24.57, compared to €39.61 in highest earning Denmark, the research shows.

That is a big gap, and the Unite press release makes quite a lot of the fact that only four of the 15 countries pay less.

Unfortunately for their argument one of those four is the UK. Our nearest neighbour and, still after all these years, our closest competitor.

If we had our own currency we might, like the UK, have been able to mask the impact of wage cuts over the past few years.

A depressed currency has a smaller psychological impact than a wage cut.

Alas we don't, and without it I'm afraid The Punt can't see any prospect of those Unite pay hikes filtering through.


HUGH McGuire is having a great old time over at Glanbia. As chief executive of the company's performance nutrition division, he oversees one of the food company's fastest-growing businesses.

It has expanded rapidly since he took up the role in 2008. Much of its success has come from capitalising on the growing demands of gym bunnies and dieters worldwide, who require increasingly sophisticated products as they become more educated about the science behind food.

Case in point – under Hugh's watchful eye, the performance nutrition division has just patented a new range of whey proteins in the US. Whey proteins are beloved by health nuts for their ability to refuel the body post-workout. Glanbia's new version of the product has what it calls "improved characteristics" in relation to taste and mouthfeel properties – ie, it's more edible than what's currently on the market.

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Glanbia is due to release its 2013 results in March; the performance nutrition division should be well on its way to €600m annual sales, a target it has set for 2016.


THERE'S nothing like starting your day €500m richer (or so The Punt would assume).

To get a more authoritative answer, you can ask Carl Icahn, who is probably relaxing to the sound of popping champagne corks this morning after shares of drug maker Forest Laboratories soared by more than 30pc, pending its acquisition by Actavis.

Icahn is the second largest shareholder in Forest, which is now being bought by Irish-headquartered Actavis for a cool $25bn (€18.1bn).

The deal is proof, if any were needed, of just how often Mr Icahn gets his way. He fought hard for seats on the board of Forest, which he only achieved two years ago, and has been pushing heavily for its sale ever since.

The deal, he said yesterday on Twitter, shows that this kind of shareholder activism works. While acknowledging that there was much "sturm und drang" to get to this point, he quoted Shakespeare: "All's well that ends well."

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his involvement in Dell, a saga that shone a far less positive light on shareholder activism.

The billionaire investor used tweets, open letters – headlining one "Let the Desperate Dell Debacle Die" – and media interviews to barrage Dell shareholders with the message that a proposed buyout undervalued the company, that Michael Dell should be fired and the board should be replaced.

Though he nearly derailed the buyout, it did eventually close.

Michael Dell told employees on the day it was signed: "It's great to be here and to not have to introduce Carl Icahn to you."

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