The winners and losers of 2012
Tony & Sir Anthony O’Reilly
But two other O’Reillys, Gavin’s twin brother Tony and dad Sir Anthony, were scoring victories in 2012. A sweet payday beckoned when exploration venture Providence Resources, of which O’Reilly jnr is chief executive and O’Reilly snr the biggest shareholder, upped its estimates for the Barryroe prospect off the south coast of Ireland. “It’s a very big field,” observed O’Reilly jnr of the potential Barryroe bonanza. Ireland’s first offshore oilfield could become as important to the Irish economy as the North Sea is for Scotland, he added.
Cork, in other words, could be the new Aberdeen. And even if drilling in these nicely shallow waters doesn’t quite go according to plan, there’s always the comfort of the very big share price jump – come Christmas, Providence’s stock was up 180 per cent since the start of the year.
Elsewhere, in Iseq-related good fortune, two Irish food giants were feasting on success. At Kerry Group, chief executive Stan McCarthy had the pleasure of announcing the creation of 900 jobs between now and 2016 at a 28-acre site in Co Kildare that it acquired from Nama for an undisclosed sum.
It was a good rule of thumb – if you were buying assets from Nama in 2012 rather than having them wrestled from you via Nama enforcement actions, then you were probably doing okay.
At Glanbia, John Moloney saw through the first stages of the company’s plan to spin off the milk processing business, a move that will allow it to concentrate on the fat US cheese operation that is so nutritional for the group bottom line.
When Glanbia co-op farmers voted in November in favour of the windfall-generating deal that means it can all happen, Moloney described it as “a great day”.
It was fizzy-pop all round at drinks wholesaler and manufacturer Gleeson Group, as it sold brands such as Finches soft drinks and Tipperary mineral water to CC.
Businessman Pat Cooney and his family are set to glean €12.4 million from the sale, which is subject to clearance from the Competition Authority. “The association is good,” said Cooney.
Fintrax Group Holdings
Deal of the year, however, was the €170 million sale of Fintrax Group Holdings, owners of the Premier Tax Back brand. The Galway-based company had established itself as the second-biggest global player in processing VAT refunds for tourists on behalf of retailers and governments.
Multiple bids swirled around the company before a deal was inked with private equity group Exponent in August, netting founder Gerry Barry and his family €119 million for their 70 per cent stake in the business. It was enough never to have to worry about tax refunds again.
We have come to the point in our “winners” section where we mention Michael O’Leary, not because he’s had a spectacular year by his standards, but because calling him a loser would just be trolling.
Another, more understated O’Leary has also made the cut. That’s Barry “IDA Ireland” O’Leary, talking the good talk around the world about the Irish recovery story.
It’s not really the way he tells ’em, to be honest. It’s in the numbers.
After a relatively decent 2011, with 6,000 jobs created by its clients – the best performance since 2002 – the IDA is “heading for a record year again this year in terms of the value of inward investment”, promised Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.
Such was the announcement-fervour that O’Leary, the agency’s chief executive, was busy warning in July of a possible shortage of suitable office space in Dublin to accommodate the multinationals that want to set up or expand here. Those big Californian tech firms love us, they really do.
You didn’t have to work for Facebook or any other friend of the IDA to be on to a nice little earner, however. And so our winners of winners for 2012 are the 27 bankers at the State’s four bailed-out banks who earn more than €500,000 (as disclosed by Noonan in November) and indeed the near 3,000 bankers in receipt of more than €100,000.
Nice work if you can get it. But as Christmas sparkled its way round again, more than 400,000 people in Ireland still couldn’t.