Sunday 25 February 2018

The Punt: Miliband for Prime Minister

British Labour party leader Ed Miliband. Photo: PA
British Labour party leader Ed Miliband. Photo: PA

The Punt was relieved to see the latest Paddy Power odds for the UK elections which show Ed Miliband is the most likely candidate to become prime minister. It was the first time since October that Paddy Power named the Labour leader was favourite although rival betting companies such as Betfair and Ladbrokes made Miliband favourite last week.

The Punt is normally an amused spectator when it comes to UK elections but not this time. Last week's Open Europe report warning Ireland would be the biggest loser from a Conservative Party victory was something of a wake-up call.

That report found that even in a scenario where the UK economy is better off after a so-called Brexit, Ireland could still lose out by as much as 3.1pc of gross domestic product, it said.

The Punt is a little sceptical of this doom-mongering but would still prefer if things were not put to the test.

The good news is that we do not know yet what sort of deal would be agreed in the aftermath of a referendum. Perhaps the UK would be allowed to become a poorer version of Norway or Switzerland but then again, perhaps not. Disputes like this have a habit of getting very bitter.

Private healthcare

Isn't it nice to see a Government minister promoting the interests of Ireland's private health offering overseas.

It really is something we should be proud of.

Forget the scandal surrounding public hospital waiting times and the fact that some 400,000 people here are on outpatient waiting lists. That evidently isn't the priority.

Because Jobs Minister Richard Bruton wants to make Ireland a leading destination for medical travel.

Mr Bruton is currently on a trade mission to the Gulf States and on Sunday announced that the Mater Private Healthcare group has secured an agreement with the Dubai Police Force to provide healthcare for its employees, their family members and retired officers.

The new agreement will see over 100,000 Dubai residents given access to high-tech health care and world-renowned specialists at Mater Private Healthcare Group.

"There is huge potential for Ireland to become a leading destination for medical travel," said Mr Bruton.

Ah, so that's the Government's aspiration. Just remember your credit card.

And to hell with those at home who aren't prepared to stump up the fees and are forced to languish on waiting lists.

Running away with the circus

Join the circus like you said you would, when you were a boy.

The Punt is all for capitalism, but it would be nice occasionally to imagine a world where there was more to business than one industrial scale private equity firm or another hoovering up every asset in sight.

There isn't though, and the proof is Texas Pacific Group's (TPG) takeover of Cirque du Soleil - the arty Canadian circus group - for CAD$1.5bn (€1.16bn).

Former street performer Guy Laliberté has agreed to sell control of Cirque du Soleil to a consortium of TPG, Chinese investment firm Fosun Capital Group and Montreal based pension manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, according to Canada's Globe and Mail.

One time fire breather Guy Laliberté owns 90pc of Cirque du Soleil which has grown over the past 30 years from a fringe act into the biggest theatrical production company in the world.

It first emerged as a modern - animal free - take on the traditional circus and its high energy shows have toured the world.

In the great contemporary measure of business success the circus is now big enough to be gobbled up by private equity.

Whether TPG founder, and Ryanair chairman, David Bonderman dreamed of walking the high-wire as a small boy was unknown at the time of going to press, but buying Cirque du Soleil is a new twist on the old idea of running away with the circus.

Irish Independent

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