Moloney prepares for pastures new after Glanbia

Cantillon: outgoing managing director’s legacy will be that he completely changed the direction of the business

Group managing director of Glanbia John Moloney expects to remain active in business through roles such as non-executive director at Greencore and DCC. Photograph: Frank Miller

Glanbia group managing director John Moloney is preparing for pastures new. Yesterday he presided over his last set of results for the food group, and was "very happy" with the company's performance – although he was quick to add that while the firm is in a strong position at present, "there have been plenty of difficult times as well. There has been a lot of change, and the company is quite different now."

Not quite a lifer at Glanbia, Moloney joined the group from the Department of Agriculture in 1987. And for Goodbody analyst Liam Igoe, the Glanbia chief's tenure at the food firm is "a text-book case of how to go about turning around a troubled business".

Recalling how the group was in a "mire" after the initial merger between Avonmore Foods and Waterfood Foods in 1997, Igoe says it was facing in the wrong direction, expanding aggressively into international dairy commodity markets.

Moloney’s legacy will be that he managed to completely change the direction of the business, rolling back on some of the mistakes that had been made and refocusing the business on areas such as performance nutrition.

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“That became the new focus. It took a long time to convert that idea into a workable business model, but slowly and surely it happened.

“And it has gathered greater momentum over the past half dozen years,” says Igoe.

Moloney will formally step down from his role as managing director this December and will hand over the reins to finance director Siobhán Talbot, a year earlier than expected.

For Moloney, the move is about effecting a "rebalance" in his life, but he expects to remain active in business through roles such as non-executive director at Greencore and DCC.

When is a housing recovery real?
Nobody (one hopes) wants to talk up residential property prices to dangerous, cliff-falling-off levels again but it seems to be undeniable that a little bit of a revival is occurring in the housing market, in Dublin at least. Depending on where you stand in the great merry-go-round, Tuesday's figures could either be very good or very bad news. At the extremes, they will generate guarded optimism for the thousands of homeowners trapped in negative equity, while for the unquantified hordes (or maybe not) of house-hunters, they may be the source of panic.

The CSO found that residential prices climbed for the fourth month in a row in July and are now 2.3 per cent higher than a year ago, although this average masks differing performances for houses and apartments and, more notably, for property in Dublin and outside.

Economists are sensibly hesitant to proclaim a bottom for the market, with Davy’s experts noting that the CSO’s reliance on mortgage-based purchases makes its data pool relatively small. The broker observes that last year, just 0.7 per cent of the State’s housing stock was “transacted” through mortgage lending and says a more “normalised” level would be close to 3 per cent. Cash buyers, furthermore, accounted for about half of purchases in the second quarter of this year – hardly a sustainable position.

On top of this, we have supply squeezes pushing up prices in certain parts of the country (again, notably in Dublin) but no movement on repossessions and the release of these homes on to the market. In brief, a lot of pieces still need to fall into place before a true picture of a housing market can emerge.

In this vein, Goodbody asked yesterday: “When is a recovery real?”

The broker was a little vague on the answer, but did suggest that recoveries on low volumes are “ultimately unsustainable”. Goodbody concluded by urging us not to get carried away by the latest data – perhaps the most sensible approach of all.


Lottery raises eyebrows with tender move
An Post's National Lottery raised a few eyebrows this week by inviting tenders for its PR business smack bang in the middle of the Government's high-profile licence competition.

With the next operator likely to want a say in who does its PR, the contract is being offered on a short-term basis only; essentially for the remaining months of the existing lottery licence which is due to expire next year.

However, the tender notice, posted on the eTenders website on Tuesday, dangled a carrot in front of prospective bidders by suggesting it might be extended for up to five years subject to agreement from the next licence holder.

The closing date for the initial phase of procurement is September 17th, just one day after the provisional deadline for applications for the National Lottery licence itself.

Instead of the rolling over the existing PR contract with Wilson Hartnell to cover the interregnum period between now and the beginning of the new lottery licence, which is commonly done in these circumstances, the National Lottery is seeking new blood.

It may have been obliged to do so under the existing regulations, or perhaps it wished to put its PR operation on a firmer footing ahead of the privatisation process.

Since the National Lottery was established in 1987, Dublin-based Wilson Hartnell has run the PR operation.

The firm has won praise for the success of the National Lottery’s Facebook page, which was set up in January 2012, and reached 50,000 likes six months ahead of target.

The page also won the ‘Best Facebook Page for a Business (Non Campaign)’ award at last year’s Social Media Awards and ‘Best Social Media Campaign’ at this year’s awards.

The Government is understandably remaining silent about the number of prospective bidders it has managed to rope into the ongoing licence process as the deadline for applications approaches.

We know of at least two definite bids at this stage; one involving An Post and UK operator Camelot, and the other involving US operator Gtech.

There is speculation, however, that Australian gaming giant Tatts may also be planning to enter the fray.

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan is a writer specialising in personal finance and is the Home & Design Editor of The Irish Times