Business The Punt

Monday 20 November 2017

The Punt: Applegreen sours in Cork

An Applegreen station
An Applegreen station

It's not even a month since service station operator Applegreen hit the stock markets in a flotation that raised about €92m and valued the business at €300m.

The shares were placed at €3.80 and are currently trading at about €4.28.

Applegreen, brought to the market by owners Bob Etchingham and Joe Barrett (pictured left and right below), has been ploughing ahead with a number of projects all over the island and is also targeting growth in the UK.

A large new service area is nearing completion in Swords, north county Dublin, beside the M1 motorway.

But the Punt sees that a fly has got into the ointment.

An Bord Pleanala has refused permission for a large service area in Mitchelstown, Co Cork. It would have had the usual Applegreen fuel pumps, along with five food outlets and a convenience shop.

But the planning watchdog shot down the proposals over concerns that there could be a groundwater pollution risk.

"Notwithstanding the proposal to provide an alternative source of drinking water to the town of Mitchelstown, the board is not satisfied that the proposed development would not give rise to an unacceptable risk of pollution to groundwater resources," said the authority in its decision this month.

OK by Greece  in America

It used to be a truism at those interminable euro summits in Brussels that regardless of how tough the economic medicine he might be prescribing, when it came to the Germans Wolfgang Schaeuble was the really committed European.

Whatever doubts anyone might have about even Angela Merkel, the line went, harsh though he might seem, Schauble remained committed to the ideals of European Union founders like Schuman and Monnet.

The Punt was never quite convinced. Since 2008 the evidence seems pretty incontrovertible that German's leaders' - include Schauble's - commitment is to a particular and pretty narrow version of the EU.

Turns out it's a version that might have more room for Puerto Rico than for Greece.

"I offered my friend [US Treasury Secretary] Jack Lew that we could take Puerto Rico into the eurozone if the US were willing to take Greece into the dollar union," Schaeuble said at an event in Frankfurt yesterday.

Many a true-word said in jest etc. Mind you, The Punt reckons, if it happened the Greeks would be getting the best of the deal.

The Hackers are hacked

It's the kind of story that couldn't have been written by previous generations of reporters.

On Wednesday all United Airlines flights were grounded after a tech error, while later in the day the New York Stock Exchange had to halt trading for several hours because of an unspecified tech issue.

This of course led to suggestions that there had been a co-ordinated hacking attack by some nefarious group which has been denied across the board.

The growth of hacking has prompted some firms to offer their services to governments around the world, making themselves "hackers for hire". The company's techniques are similar to those used in "malware" by criminals trying to steal computer users' personal information.

Well, in a delicious irony, one of those firms, Italy's "Hacking Team", has itself been hacked. According to The Wall Street Journal, files posted online indicate it sold surveillance technology to dozens of countries, including the likes of Sudan, Egypt, Russia and the US.

A Hacking Team spokesman said the company "is investigating" and that it doesn't "confirm the identities of clients or their locations".

The Punt won't be hiring Hacking Team any time soon.

Irish Independent

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