Inside the world of business

 

Genzyme gives Waterford something to cheer about

A DECADE after it first arrived in Ireland, biotech group Genzyme this week unveiled its latest expansion – a €150 million investment that will treble the capacity of its fill/finish line.

It doesn’t sound very exotic but to Genzyme, and to Waterford, it is a big thing.

Genzyme has been plagued with what it calls “manufacturing issues” at its Allston Landing plant in Boston. As a result, production of several key drugs has been transferred to the Irish plant. However, capacity restrictions forced the company to outsource some of its production.

With the new fill/finish line now available, Waterford can take more of the burden and, in the process, make itself strategically more important to its new owners Sanofi.

This is the fourth expansion of Genzyme’s plant and Chris Viehbacher, chief executive of Sanofi which acquired Genzyme in a $20.1 billion deal earlier this year, took the opportunity to make his first visit here to open the new site.

Sanofi’s Aventis unit has closed plants in Ireland before but Viehbacher made a point of praising what he said was the most state-of-the- art production facility across the group’s 100- plus sites and noting that Sanofi was unlikely to mothball a plant in which it has invested half a billion euros over the past decade,

“We’re here for the long term. We were here for the good times and when things get difficult, we are not about to walk away,” he said.

That will be a relief for Waterford since it is a vote of confidence in the city which is still reeling from the loss of 575 jobs at Talk Talk and a series of employment setbacks in recent years.

While the new line will not in itself create more jobs at the plant, the nature of the facility serves to protect the future of the 500 staff.

Truth and Ansbacher trusts

IN THE context of Nama, the IMF and the possible collapse of the euro, the phrase the Ansbacher deposits is like a sound from history. For those who are not old enough to remember, the deposits were a secret and unauthorised banking system that involved people nominally putting money on deposit in the Cayman Islands, but still being able to make withdrawals here in Dublin.

This week property developer John Byrne (89), builder of O’Connell Bridge House in Dublin among other structures, won his Supreme Court appeal against the 2002 findings of the Ansbacher inspectors in relation to two Cayman trusts associated with the deposits and which own his Dublin businesses.

The judgment, by Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, centres on the word “veracity”, a word, as the judge pointed out, that is an “abstract term of Latinate origin. Words of this sort naturally lend themselves to vagueness and to obscure shades of meaning.”

The word featured in a High Court ruling in May 2001. There were originally three inspectors. One resigned from the position during the process and two new inspectors were appointed thereafter, bringing the number of inspectors to four. These changes occurred after Byrne had been interviewed about his Cayman trusts.

The High Court ruled that if a person had been interviewed by only two of the inspectors, he had to be interviewed again if the veracity of his evidence was in dispute. Byrne was not interviewed again.

Although the four inspectors argued otherwise, Mr Justice Hardiman said it was obvious the veracity or truth of Byrne’s evidence was disputed by the inspectors. (They argued that veracity meant subjective internal belief, ie that although they didn’t agree with him, Byrne believed what he was saying was true).

Byrne won his appeal because the court ruled that he should have been interviewed a second time. What this means, if anything, for the tax status of Byrne’s trusts was not something that was addressed by the court.

Women’s wake-up call

ONE OF the most interesting interventions at last weekend’s Global Irish Economic Forum came from Irish businesswoman Anita Sands, chief operating officer at UBS wealth management in New York, who highlighted the under-representation of women during the final plenary session. Her point was not to make any play for tokenism, but rather to highlight the importance of the emerging female economy.

The growing economic power of women as consumers has been well-documented globally and, with women’s earnings expected to increase from $13 trillion to an estimated $18 trillion in the next few years, there is a growing sense this may be a defining future market.

It should come as no coincidence then that a push to increase female representation on boards is on the agenda in the UK. Prime minister David Cameron yesterday called on companies to speed up moves to appoint more female directors as a progress report had shown that companies had fallen short of the target set by former trade minister Lord Mervyn Davies.

The fact that Britain’s accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, will require companies to report each year on the steps they have taken to implement their diversity policies , shows that the UK is taking the issue seriously.

Here, Irish corporate life is still overwhelmingly a male domain, with companies such as Ryanair and Kerry Group lacking any female executive or non-executive directors on their board. Sands’s comments may serve as a welcome wake-up call to an indigenous corporate culture that has historically been resistant to embracing gender diversity.

TODAY:The Economic and Social Research Institute hosts its annual Budget Perspectives conference, highlighting some of the issues facing the Government as it frames December’s Budget.


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