Bank of America moving on to Britain
Cantillon:It is the latest move in a global restructuring which has seen Bank of America retrench from activities such as credit cards and private banking, but the bank’s decision to transfer much of its global markets business from Ireland to the UK will further dilute the bank’s Irish presence.
Bank of America was one of the first US banks to open an Irish operation, opening a branch in 1968 to service the arrival of US multinationals to Irish shores.
In 2008 it significantly expanded its presence in Ireland when it acquired Merrill Lynch International Bank, as part of a global merger. The US investment bank had first come to Ireland in 1995, subsequently adding a private wealth operation, an RD centre, as well as a support operation for European markets. It later became Ireland’s largest bank in terms of assets, a position it still holds today.
However, the merger has proven to be more than challenging for Bank of America at a global level, and as a result, has led to a significant restructuring of its operations.
While the bank still sees its Irish operation as being strategically important, changes at a global level have meant the divestment of its Carrick-on-Shannon based credit card business, MBNA, to private equity outfit Apollo Global Management in 2011, as well as the sale of its Dublin-based private wealth business to Julius Baer last August.
There have also been redundancies at its Dublin operation and, while the bank does not disclose its headcount levels, employment numbers are unlikely to be near the 1,800 employees at its peak.
But if the Irish operation is getting smaller, the bank is growing elsewhere, notably in Chester in England. It was selected as the home for the bank’s new global technology and operations centre in 2011.
This will create up to 1,000 jobs, and will support the group’s global banking, financial markets and wealth management businesses. It is due to be fully operational by mid-2013.
Amarin’s long road to get drug launched
Amarin’s circuitous path to yesterday’s commercial launch of Vascepa is indicative of some of the challenges of the more prescription drug business.
Founded initially in 1989 as Ethical Holdings, much of the modern corporate DNA of the business was put in place during a spell as part of the Elan family.
Spun off again with Elan veteran Tom Lynch at the helm, it pursued a therapy for Huntington’s disease with considerable optimism only to suffer a catastrophic failure in a clinical trial. The company hastily reinvented itself, scrambling for new pipeline candidates. One of those was AMR101. Initially, Amarin targeted Huntington’s before looking at its prospects in the area of cardiovascular disease.
In 2009, it again came close to collapse as funding looked to be fast running out. Eventually, new investors came on board alongside longer-term supporters.
News in April 2011 that the drug was more effective in lowering a particularly insidious form of blood fat – a trigger for cardiovascular disease – drove the stock to new highs.
Talk then was of a market of 100 million patients and a blockbuster drug earning up to $2 billion a year. Since then, the company’s focus has been on delivery. That hasn’t proven as smooth as expected.