The Best of the Weekend Business Papers 8 March 2020

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THE MAIN TALKING POINTS
  • The Business Post reports that up to 1.9m people in Ireland could be infected by the coronavirus
  • The Sunday Independent says workers forced to self-isolate due to the coronovirus will be entitled to immediate illness benefit
  • The Sunday Times says Aer Lingus staff are being asked to work part time or take unpaid leave
  • The Financial Times says investors are fleeing to safety ahead of a possible recession
  • The WSJ says that the coronavirus has raised risks for the US and global economy

 

QUOTE’S FOR THE WEEK
 

 

“The most frightening disease I have ever encountered.”

– Dr. Richard Hatchett, who advised both the Bush and Obama administrations on pandemic preparedness, speaking about the coronavirus.

 

 

THE BUSINESS POST
 

 

 

“Irish health authorities predict 1.9m people will fall ill with coronavirus”, is the alarming headline on the front of this week’s paper. The worrying prediction is based on Department of Health modelling which suggests that almost 40% of the population could get sick from the virus, rising to 50% in a “worst case scenario”.

So what is the business community saying about the possible impact of the virus? On page two, it’s reported that business lobby groups such as IBEC and Chambers Ireland have called on the government to use a surplus of almost €1bn in the state’s National Training Fund to help businesses pay workers forced to self-isolate due to the virus. IBEC is also calling on the government to establish a “special emergency social welfare payment” to be provided. Meanwhile, the Restaurants Association is calling for the reintroduction of the reduced 9% VAT rate for the sector, a moratorium on VAT payments and a halving of employers’ PRSI. “Decisive action needs to be taken immediately,” said Adrian Cummins, CEO of the association.

Turning to other stories and Gillian Nellis reports that the new owner of the K Club is set to rename its famous Smurfit Golf course as part of an investment and rebranding programme. Michael Fetherson, who bought the Kildare resort last year for the sum of €55m, will rename the course as the Straffan Golf Course.

Roisin Burke reports that US developer Hines has turned a nice profit on the sale of its office block at Bishop’s Square off Kevin Street in Dublin 2. Hines acquired the block in 2015 for €92.5m and is now selling it to Australian investor Macquarie Group and German fund Patrizia for €180m.

Some more property news and Rosanna Cooney reports that a legal row has broken out between developer Johnny Ronan over a party wall separating Ronan’s St. James’ House on Adelaide Road and Four Park Place, a nine-storey office block under development by Clancourt Capital. According to the report the dispute has held up construction of the block for months. In a separate piece on the same page, Killian Woods reports that developer Eric Kinsella’s plans to build an 11-storey tower next to Tara Street Dart station have also hit a snag after city planners criticised the proposal.

On page five, Peter O’Dwyer reports on AIB’s new three-year strategy which it unveiled last week. O’Dwyer reports that cost control is at the plan’s core with AIB saying it intends to reduce its headcount from 9,250 at the end of last year to below 8,000 by 2022.

On page eight, Aaron Rogan reports that Google is continuing its tentacle-like expansion in the Dublin docklands with the news that it is renting more office space in the Watermarque Building in Ringsend. It means that Google now has a footprint of nine offices across the capital, as well as developing 36,581 sq m of office, residential and retail space at Boland’s Quay.

In Brief

  • US investment fund Capital Group has built up a €1.1bn stake in Flutter Entertainment
  • Insignia Financial has raised €10m from high net-worth clients for a fund aimed at taking advantage of volatility around Covid-19
  • Providence Oil & Gas is planning to reduce its exploration interests off the west coast of Ireland

 

The Sunday Business Post is a digital subscription. We encourage you to support quality journalism and subscribe or buy the physical newspaper. Subscribe here >
 

 

THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
 

 

The Sunday Independent reports that workers who have to self-isolate due to the coronovirus will be entitled to immediate illness benefit under government plans being drawn up this weekend. Currently, workers only get state sick pay after six days of falling ill. It is hoped the move will reduce the spread of the virus as workers won’t be reluctant to go into isolation over fears they won’t be paid.

Turning to the business pages, and the top story is that Musgrave, the retail group behind the SuperValu and Centra chains has contacted suppliers asking for information on how the virus might affect supply chains. It comes amid fears of panic buying in shops if the outbreak worsens.

In Brief

  • Red Carnation Hotels has sought planning permission for a 60-bedroom hotel at Hatch Hall in Dublin city centre
  • AIB says it expects to fund developments which will deliver over 10,000 homes this year
  • Subprime lender Amigo has grown its Irish customer base by over 1,000 in the past three months 

 

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THE SUNDAY TIMES
 

 

Staff at Aer Lingus are being asked to volunteer to take unpaid leave due to the impact of the coronavirus, according to this week’s top business story. Conor McMahon reports that the airline has contacted employees offering them the option of working part-time or taking unpaid leave over a 16-week period. However, the story notes that Aer Lingus does not explicitly reference the coronavirus in its offer.

Some banking stories and Niall Brady reports that AIB has frozen the pensions of more than 4,000 retired staff claiming it is unable to pay them increases. The Financial Services Union had sought an increase in 2020 in line with inflation. Separately, Brady also reports that Bank of Ireland is in talks with FBD about offering its motor and home insurance policies to its customers.

Gavin Daly has another story involving developer Johnny Ronan. He writes that Ronan is close to securing €250m from US group Cortland to “forward-fund” more than 470 apartments being built at Spencer Place in the Dublin Docklands. It’s reported that Cortland has agreed to fund and acquire the apartments at the site which will also house a hotel and the headquarters for software group Salesforce.
 
In Brief
 
  • Ardmore Studios is planning to build two new sound stages at its Co Wicklow facility
  • Two hedge funds have increased their short position in nutrition group Glanbia to a combined 1% stake
  • Carlow Craft Brewery, maker of O’Hara’s beers, made €170,830 profits last year 
  • Bedding retailer Mattress Mick has announced a million-euro plan to expand across Ireland
The Sunday Times is a digital subscription. We encourage you to support quality journalism and subscribe or buy the physical newspaper. Subscribe here >
 

 

 
THE FINANCIAL TIMES 
 

 

Investors are “fleeing to safety” amid fears of a coronovirus-induced recession according to the cover of this week’s FT. The paper reports that perceived safe-haven assets such as government bonds have seen their highest demand since the financial crisis while oil prices have slumped by almost 10%. “It’s pure fear”, says Dickie Hodges, a fund manager at Nomura Asset Management.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the travel sector, and in particular the aviation industry that is bearing the brunt of the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Flybe, Europe’s largest regional operator has gone into administration while low-cost carrier Ryanair has cancelled hundreds of flights. Meanwhile, Airbus said it was reviewing its 2020 delivery pipeline amid a slump in passenger demand.

Turning to an entirely different subject, the popular gay dating app Grindr has been sold by its Chinese owner for a cool $600m. Interestingly, the sale brings to an end a long dispute with US regulators who had expressed fears China could have used sensitive data given to the app by its 3.3m users to blackmail US citizens.

 

 

The FT is a digital subscription. We encourage you to support quality journalism and subscribe or buy the physical newspaper. Subscribe here >
 

 

 
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
 

 

 

“Coronavirus Risk Rises for US, Global Economies” is the onimous headline on this week’s WSJ. The paper says that economists are now slashing their growth forecasts for the global economy, which had been improving before the virus hit. Oxford Economics has cut its forecast for global growth in 2020 to 2% while the OECD said growth would take a 0.5% hit under its “best case scenario”.

Amid reports of panic-buying in shops across the world, Amazon said it was struggling to stamp out third-party suppliers from charging exorbitant prices for virus-killing goods such as hand sanitiser and other cleaning products. The e-commerce giant said sales of hand sanitiser had jumped by 54% on the same period last year while sales of thermometers were up by 34%.

Finally, “a culture of concealment coupled with insufficient federal safety oversight” at aircraft maker Boeing led to two fatal crashes of its ill-fated 737 MAX jet which claimed a total of 346 lives. That was the damning conclusion of a US congressional report into the company which said that it had “acted improperly” and tried to “withhold or conceal” information from safety regulators in order to get the plane certified.

 

 

The WSJ  is a digital subscription. We encourage you to support quality journalism and subscribe or buy the physical newspaper. Subscribe here >

 

 
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All views are strictly my own brief interpretation of the articles in the various publications and not intended to be comprehensive. 
 
Please feel free to forward to friends or colleagues and get in touch if you wish to add contacts to the mailing list.
 
Have a safe & healthy  week – hopefully better news next week-end!  
Regards,
Shay

 

 
 
Shay Dalton 
 
Managing Director – Lincoln Recruitment
E: sdalton@lincoln.ie
A: 5 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

 

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About the Author

Shay Dalton

Shay Dalton

Managing Director

sdalton@lincoln.ie+353 16498583

Shay Dalton is the Managing Director of Lincoln Recruitment Group. Shay is a qualified ACCA Accountant with over 20 years’ experience specialising in the placement of senior positions across a broad spectrum of Accountancy and Finance positions within the industrial and financial services sectors. Having been involved in the establishment of some of the most respected financial recruitment brands in the Irish market, Shay subsequently set up Lincoln Recruitment Specialists in 2008. He also hold’s an MSc in Organisational Management and is a member of BPS, qualified to conduct and interpret psychometric testing as well an EQi testing.

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