Cantillon: No love lost between IDA and Dublin City Councillors over skyscraper limits

IDA Ireland has irked some of the elected members of Dublin City Council over its lobbying to allow more skyscrapers in Dublin's docklands. Some councillors, it appears, are just not feeling the love from the State investment agency.

The Irish Times reported this week that the IDA is at odds with the council over restrictions to be imposed on building heights in the Grand Canal/North Lotts area. Already home to multinationals such as Google and Facebook, it is to be subject to fast-track plan- ning rules following its designation as a special economic zone.

The IDA, which has repeatedly warned that Dublin is running out of the sort of shiny, large-scale buildings that multinationals like to call home, outlined its concerns in a submission during a public consultation held by the council. It wants more “flexibility” on building height.

Dermot Lacey (pictured), the leader of the Labour group on the council, contacted the paper to complain that the IDA had not outlined any concerns to him, which he found "contemptuous". "IDA didn't bother to talk to the councillors. Why didn't they make contact with us? I didn't get any submission. Perhaps this tells us more about the attitude of State bodies to democratic structures," he said.

Lacey said it appeared the IDA “simply want to be able to plan the city as they wish. I prefer to plan it for Dubliners.”

Following the consultation, the councillors voted on the plan. It appears they still intend to limit building heights across most parts of the zone. This will surely be to the chagrin of the agency tasked with attracting multinationals.

Why didn’t Lacey read the submission that the IDA had sent to the council as part of the consultation process to set guidelines for developing the new economic zone? “I didn’t see it. We got many submissions and I read dozens of documents, but my energy is usually directed at the ones sent directly to me.”

So did he vote on the plan without reading any of the submissions sent in by the public? Doesn’t that make the whole consultation a pointless exercise?

“I get paid €16,500 to be a part-time politician. I don’t have the time [to read the submissions]. We rely on information provided to us by [council staff].” An eye-opener, no doubt, for those who spend hours slaving over such submissions.

Little to keep pharma analysts busy in wake of Elan deal

A US bidder swoops for Elan triggering speculation that more Irish-domiciled drug companies may find themselves in the crosshairs of acquisitive foreign companies. One of those, Jazz, subsequently misses earnings expectations, albeit narrowly, but manages to advance regardless. Even by the standards of the summer silly season, this is a real peach.

The idea that US and other companies – especially in the pharmaceutical sector where Ireland is on the radar in the boardroom of every company of any size – needed the Perrigo deal to illustrate to them the advantages of Ireland’s corporate tax code is ridiculous. Ireland’s corporate tax rate is on the front page of every IDA Ireland presentation as it touts for successive generations of foreign direct investment.

As it happens, the two companies named likely to find themselves as bid targets following the Elan deal are fully aware of the taxable gains of an Irish base – both Jazz and Alkermes moved their corporate headquarters to Dublin after their respective acquisitions of Azur Pharma and Elan Drug Technologies.

Jazz, a manufacturer of niche pharmaceuticals, may have missed its target but it is seen by the market as moving in the right direction, with the company raising its full-year revenue projections and reporting strong growth in key drugs. This is likely to be far more important to long-term prospects than becoming a mini-me for Elan. In any case, Elan’s circumstances were very particular. By its own actions, it effectively put itself in the shop window only to object when Royalty Pharma moved in to acquire it. Fending off those unwelcome advances cost Elan money it had planned to use elsewhere. More importantly, it weakened its position to such an extent it ultimately had no choice but to seek a buyer – but had the good sense to haggle for a decent price.

It would be nice to think a more serious question in the sector delivers some answers today when Amarin announces second-quarter figures, but the likelihood is supporters of the prescription grade Omega-3 fish oil drug will find themselves little the wiser about the firm’s prospects.

Who benefits from cybercrime?

Does cybercrime pay? Some well-known security software firms would have you believe it does. Norton, for example, has reported that cybercrime is costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year, overtaking the lucrative trade in the underground drugs market. In fact, last month Intel subsidiary McAfee, which is a provider of virus protection and internet security, said cyber crime and cyber espionage could leach between $100 billion and $500 billion from the global economy annually.

Does this mean there are millionaire or even billionaire spam and malware kings at large? Considering online crooks, like their real-world counterparts, don’t file accounts, it’s hard to know. Thus, we must look to surveys of victims, often compiled by firms that sell security software. How convenient.

The latest survey by Deloitte (which provides computer forensics, technology assurance and risk management) in association with EMC (which provides security solutions to protect against malware, data breaches, phishing and trojan attacks) found the average cost of a cybercrime incident for Irish organisations over the past year was €135,000. The survey published this week also shows that cybercrime costs Irish organisations, on average, 2.7 per cent of annual turnover. What’s more, some 7 per cent of respondents stated that their organisation had experienced more than 20 breaches, while 21 per cent had between one and five breaches.

“The survey results show that Irish IT organisations are in a constant state of compromise from cybercriminals, which is having a severe effect on their bottom line,” said Jason Ward, EMC director for Ireland, Scotland and UK North.

“A proactive approach that is both planned and sustained is of critical importance for Irish organisations in protecting themselves against this omnipresent threat,” said Deloitte Enterprise Risk Services partner Colm McDonnell.

It would seem the lesson to be learned from this survey is that attacks are very common if you don’t have sufficient security controls in place and can be very costly. That said, it would be preferable if the companies publishing such research didn’t have a connection with the theme, and were unable to gain financially from businesses’ reactions to the results.