Saturday 26 May 2018

Rising sun, setting course

Maeve Kneafsey
Maeve Kneafsey

Getting rid of the armrests on reporters' chairs, apparently, did for things the last time Japan's Nikkei hooked up with a western rival. Then, a tie-in with the Dow Jones newswire in the 1990s, US staff at a joint newsroom in Tokyo were stunned to discover that only senior managers in status-conscious Japan enjoyed the luxury of well-rested elbows. The fall-out from that debacle - journalists are notoriously arm weary - seems unlikely to be repeated at the 'Financial Times', which Japanese peer Nikkei is in the process of buying.

Still, given working and cultural differences, Nikkei CEO Naotoshi Okada will have a job of work on his hands integrating his new, largely UK- and US-focused business into what is already a large publishing empire.

If British journalists are worried, they probably shouldn't be. Nikkei is buying the FT for a premium, because it needs to. The deal may well herald a new wave of similar acquisitions, across any number of sectors.

An aging population and a long-stagnant home economy means Japanese firms have to look beyond the home market not just for growth, but simply to maintain scale.

Japanese firms are rich, but have been overshadowed since the 1990s by the likes of German car makers and California technology houses. Acquisitions could be the answer, but integration is the real challenge.

Marketfinder attracts cash

The Punt notices a lot of investments being made these days in small companies and start-ups, with money flowing again now that the economy is improving.

An interesting one is Marketfinder, a company that was established in 2013 by Maeve Kneafsey. She's a founder of and a former chair of the Irish Internet Association.

Marketfinder's software - 'Power to Convert' - is a tool that shows marketing teams or company owners how best to maximise sales online. Last year, it received €50,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland.

The Punt sees that former KPMG partner Gerard Flood has also just invested in Marketfinder.

He was chairman of KPMG's corporate finance unit, and worked with the firm until 2009. He's also a non-executive director of Merrion Pharmaceuticals.

He has used his firm, Antrich Consulting, to invest €75,000 in Marketfinder. Enterprise Ireland has also stumped up €150,000. Technology entrepreneur David Raethorne has also invested €75,000.

Foynes on the right track

A healthy €3m European grant for two key projects is goods news for the west Limerick town of Foynes, home to an important deep water port and a museum dedicated to the transatlantic flying boats that plied their trade there in the early years of air travel.

Foynes has always been synonymous with the nuts and bolts of the more practical end of transport and travel, so it is no surprise that the finance secured by the Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) is largely for jetty infrastructure, though €800,000 earmarked for a feasibility study into regeneration of a rail link between the port and the rail hub at Limerick city caught the Punt's eye. Outside of the Dublin commuter belt, new rail services are as rare as hens' teeth.

There's generally a good reason for that - it's cheaper and easier to carry people and most things by road - at least over short distances. The bulk cargo and shipping containers that Foynes deals in are probably a good exception to the rule though. But even in this case, and with an existing historic rail line, the work involved in bringing it back into service is huge. Just 25km of track between Foynes and Limerick, almost all rural, features 83 structures - ranging from level crossings to bridges and underpasses. It could be cheaper to move the port.

Irish Independent

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