Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

Who is the best CEO of the year, and who is the least impressive boss?

Badly received acquisition deals, young executives to watch for the future -- our analyst poll reveals the stars and turkeys of 2013, writes John Mulligan

Glanbia group managing director designate Siobhan Talbot;
Glanbia group managing director designate Siobhan Talbot;
Aer Lingus cabin crew with CEO Christoph Mueller
John Mulligan

John Mulligan


Christoph Mueller Aer Lingus

The former German army drill sergeant has been mustering the troops at Aer Lingus since September 2009. He's had his work cut out. Not only had he to try to make the airline profitable again, he's also had to deal with a number of industrial relations issues -- many of them within the past few months.

This year alone has seen a continuing battle with Ryanair to see off the stalker. Ryanair was ordered by the UK's Competition Commission to offload all but a 5 per cent stake in its near 30 per cent holding in its smaller rival. Ryanair's appeal will be heard in February. Meanwhile, attempts to solve a major pension crisis involving Aer Lingus staff rumble on, with Siptu members currently balloting for industrial action.

While the airline issued a profit warning in September as short-haul routes suffered, Mueller (who was appointed An Post chairman this year) has been pinning hopes on an expansion of US services next year.

While Mueller secured 20 per cent of the vote in this category, experts were also impressed with Kerry boss Stan McCarthy, who weighed in just behind the airline chief. Siobhan Talbot, the former Glanbia group finance director who succeeded John Maloney as CEO this year, made an impressive debut at number three.


Stephen Glancey C&C

The cider-maker may have reported a surge in summer sales as punters basked in the heatwave, but the C&C boss is getting the cold shoulder from some in the investment community.

The company's stock has yielded a 10 per cent return so far this year, but the core of the problem for some investors is a deal sealed this time last year that saw C&C pay a premium $305m (€221m) to buy US-based Vermont Hard Cider.

Stephen Glancey admitted during the summer that C&C had paid a "very full price" for the company. The former Scottish & Newcastle executive defended the acquisition as it emerged that a rival brand of US cider had overtaken the Hard Cider brand Woodchuck as the leading US cider drink. Some analysts have questioned the US performance by C&C, which has been hampered by consolidation of distributors. Mr Glancey insists the US investment will deliver an improved performance next year.

Despite C&C shares having recovered the ground lost during the summer on the back of a weak trading statement, it's clear that Mr Glancey has work to do to put the fizz back into the company and get investors back on side. He has said that 2014 will be a "transition year" for the firm.

Just pipped by Stephen Glancey in this category is Michael Carville, the boss of mining firm Kenmare Resources. It's had a torrid time, with production issues combined with a slump in prices for its ore.




It's a very close-run race at the top for the best company gong, but Cavan-based insulation maker Kingspan just comes out on top. In fact, three companies were tied in second place: Paddy Power, Kerry Group and Glanbia.

Kingspan has emerged from the shadow of the financial and property meltdown and its shares have jumped 50 per cent in the past year.

Under the stewardship of CEO Gene Murtagh, Kingspan has been busy during 2013, expanding its horizons, including gaining a foothold in the Gulf, where it bought a company in Dubai. In 2012, Kingspan generated 38 per cent of its €1.6bn in sales in the UK, while 37 per cent came from mainland Europe.

Investors are betting the company will benefit from accelerated growth once the construction markets really pick up.


Irish Continental Group

A quarter of the analysts surveyed named Irish Continental as the best small company. Most people know it under its Irish Ferries brand.

Despite tourist traffic between Ireland and the UK as well as trade levels being hit badly once the downturn got into full swing, ICG has navigated choppy waters and handed back shedloads of cash to shareholders into the bargain. Among those who've benefited most from that largesse is the ferry firm's captain, former stockbroker Eamonn Rothwell.

The company has recently announced increased capacity on its Dublin-Holyhead route. From January it will be ploughing the waves between Dublin and Cherbourg once a week using a newly chartered vessel that will offer an "economy-style" service.

Insurer FBD was just beaten to the top spot by ICG.


Although it was passed by shareholders last year, Glanbia's deal to spin off its milk processing business was only completed in 2013 and was a favourite among analysts.

Under the terms of the transaction, which was done to take advantage of EU milk quotas being abolished in 2015, the Glanbia co-op agreed to distribute about 7 per cent of its stake in Glanbia plc to its members. That saw just over 16,000 farmers split a €172m share windfall. The co-op arm retains a 41.3 per cent stake in the plc, and 60 per cent ownership of the new dairy business, Glanbia Ingredients Ireland.

Analysts were largely split on the best of the rest, although the just-announced $435m (€315m) acquisition by Clonmel-based Kentz of US company Valerus also received strong endorsement.


There were a few to choose from, including that C&C acquisition in the US, but analysts plumped for Kenmare Resources' share placing in October that raised €78m for the firm.

Kenmare operates an ilmenite mine in Mozambique but it has suffered from depressed prices for its wares, production issues and the firm faces a $40m debt repayment in March.

It dished out 250 million new shares at 26.5p each in October. That represented a 9 per cent discount to the previous day's close. Since then, things have just gotten worse. The shares are now changing hands at about 23p.

The depth of the challenge facing Kenmare was laid out as it issued the new shares. It said that between July and the start of October it had shipped 40 per cent less ilmenite, used in products such as paint, and zircon, often used in electronics, than it had in the corresponding period in 2012.


Juliusz Komorek


We were after someone under 40 and it flummoxed analysts. The CEOs are growing older. Kingspan's Gene Murtagh turned 42 in May, while Greencore's Patrick Coveney hit 43 in October. Paddy Power boss Patrick Kennedy is 44.

But Juliusz Komorek is the 35-year-old director of legal regulatory affairs and company secretary at Ryanair. He's been with the airline since 2007 and in his current role since 2009. From Poland, he has also worked at the European Commission's competition watchdog. He's been kept on his toes this year, dealing with his previous employer as Ryanair tried to persuade Brussels yet again to allow it to buy Aer Lingus.

He'll continue to earn his crust in 2014 as Ryanair fights the UK Competition Commission order to sell off most its stake in Aer Lingus.

Irish Independent

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