Friday 23 February 2018

The Punt: China's 5-star super-group

Bob Savage
Bob Savage

Ever heard of the Jin Jiang International Hotels group? Don't worry, neither had The Punt. But the Shanghai-based state-owned company is the largest hotel group in China, with a whopping 1,190 owned or managed premises there at the end of 2013.

But it also has more than 380 owned or managed hotels in other parts of the world, primarily the United States. It's the world's ninth-biggest hotel group. But interestingly, the group's just-published annual report also notes that it manages two hotels in Ireland with 376 rooms between them – they're the Powerscourt Hotel in Co Wicklow and the swish Marker Hotel in Dublin city.

Jin Jiang's hotels include four- and five-star properties, but it also has what it calls "select service hotels" – budget hotels to you and me. Its hotels in Ireland and other countries outside China are managed by the IHR Group (Interstate Hotels & Resorts), in which Jin Jiang has a 50pc interest.

The other 50pc is owned by the US-based private investment firm, Thayer Lodging Group. The Marker is jointly owned by Brehon Capital Partners, whose principal is Kevin McGillycuddy, and Switzerland's Midwest Holdings. The firms also own the Powerscourt Hotel. How very international.

SAVAGE APPETITE FOR EXPANSION

It must be a pleasant experience presiding over a business operation that's in expansion mode. Corkman Bob Savage, below, has been at the helm of the Irish arm of storage hardware multinational EMC since 2008, having been with the firm for almost 25 years. EMC has been busy expanding here.

Last summer, it announced a €100m investment in Cork to add 200 jobs to its workforce here, bringing its tally in Cork to around 2,000. It employs a total of more than 3,000 people in Ireland, engaged in roles from engineering, sales, customer support, finance and R&D. Another feather in Mr Savage's cap is having just been handed responsibility for EMC's Centre of Excellence operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (one of them is in Cork).

He'll oversee two strategic centres in Russia and Egypt, and will jointly manage responsibilities for the centre of excellence in Israel. He'll continue to head EMC Ireland. Mr Savage has a degree in electronic engineering from Cork Institute of Technology. "We at EMC believe Ireland can lead the revolution in big data and data analytics if steps are taken now to build the advanced skills tomorrow's graduates and the sector will need," Mr Savage said.

This week, EMC holds its annual conference in Las Vegas. It's expected to push its 'third platform' of computing, built around cloud, mobile, big data and social networking.

NORWEGIAN STILL INJECTING FUNDS

Despite having warned that it may have to pull the plug on its new Ireland-based international unit because of delays in securing permission from American authorities to operate transatlantic flights from the UK to the US, Norwegian Air has continued to pump money into its Irish subsidiaries.

Between Christmas and early April, it had injected a total of $465m (€336m) into two Irish units – Norwegian Air International and Arctic Aviation Assets. New filings show that another $6.5m went into Arctic last week. Norwegian Air boss Bjoern Kjos has suspended negotiations with Boeing about buying 20 of its Dreamliner aircraft because of the foot-dragging that's been going on in the US corridors of power over an application to operate low-cost flights from the UK to America.

Norwegian has based its international arm in Ireland and secured an air operator's licence here to avail of EU Open Skies rights to provide services to the US. That has caused huge controversy in the US, with aviation unions piling pressure on the government to reject Norwegian's application to fly to the US from the UK.

Irish Independent

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