Cantillon: Ireland is open for business

€125 million State-backed investment fund to back medium-sized Irish businesses.

Richard Bruton, our relentlessly jolly Minister for Job Announcements, looked particularly pleased with himself yesterday at the launch of the new €125 million State-backed investment fund for medium-sized Irish businesses.

Richard Bruton, our relentlessly jolly Minister for Job Announcements, looked particularly pleased with himself yesterday at the launch of the new €125 million State-backed investment fund for medium-sized Irish businesses.

Tue, Nov 5, 2013, 01:03

Richard Bruton, our relentlessly jolly Minister for Job Announcements, looked particularly pleased with himself yesterday at the launch of the new €125 million State-backed investment fund for medium-sized Irish businesses.

The fund will take equity stakes in medium-sized Irish firms with growth potential. The State agency Enterprise Ireland has coughed up a quarter of the fund, while AIB, which may as well be a state agency, has committed €20 million.

The rest of the cash will come from foreign investors, surely the main reason for Bruton’s jollity.

It is one thing to have foreign investors crawling all over the country seeking out distressed asset buys, building Viagra factories or coining it on Irish Government bonds. It is another thing altogether to attract foreign cash into the State to be risked on existing indigenous, growing businesses.

During the boom, the capital structure of the entire economy became lopsided. Much of the equity that would ordinarily have been available to invest in growing Irish businesses was diverted instead towards property deals, where the returns were much higher.

This forced many growing Irish firms to rely too heavily on debt financing instead, although if there wasn’t a property angle to the deal the banks were less interested. How ironic, then, to see that the property industry is effectively barred from applying to the fund launched yesterday.

The €125 million is just a tiny fraction of the cash needed to help alleviate the capital famine that has starved the indigenous economy in recent years.

But it’s a welcome start.

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