O'Brien urges bond market for businesses

IRELAND NEEDS a bond market to facilitate funding for Irish businesses given the difficulties accessing credit in the current environment, businessman Denis O’Brien said yesterday.

Speaking at the annual Deloitte/Enterprise Ireland CEO Forum, Mr O’Brien pointed to the success of such a scheme for mid-sized companies. He told the audience he would like to see a functioning bond market in Ireland, which would facilitate companies looking to raise five to seven-year money of about €5 million to €20 million at an interest rate of about 7 to 8 per cent.

Such an approach would be “transformative for Irish companies”, he said.

Mr O’Brien also called on the private sector to play a major role in the public sector, adding that private sector-style accountability needed to be introduced.

“It’s too easy to hide behind a minister,” he said, adding, “we need a proper meritocracy where hard work and ability and talent are rewarded,”

Mr O’Brien also put forward a proposal to appoint a minister for Asia, given the region’s growing importance for Irish companies.

The chief executive of Greenstar, Rosheen McGuckian, told the conference that waste volumes have collapsed to 25 per cent of levels seen back in 2007, causing problems for the industry.

“To say it is a challenge is an understatement,” she said, adding that in addition to reduced demand, Greenstar had been dealing with a widespread collapse in pricing which had had a “devastating impact” on the sector. As a result, the company has had three rounds of redundancies in the past three years.

Ms McGuckian said she is keeping a close watch on expenditure. “I’ve never had to give the same individual attention to cash management as I’ve done over the past few years,” she said, but added that this approach has started to reap dividends.

“We have hit the bottom, and it’s not getting worse,” she said, adding that the company now sees a lot of opportunity for consolidation in the market.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Frank Ryan said that over the last six months Ireland’s reputation has improved internationally. “It’s only in Ireland that we think so negatively of ourselves; other countries don’t,” he said, adding that Ireland could become the “comeback economy of Europe”.

When asked whether or not Kerry Group has a contingency plan in place should the euro collapse, chief executive Stan McCarthy said it wasn’t possible to change the structure of the business just because of this current uncertainty.

“I don’t think we should panic at this point in time,” he said, adding if he was to take a bet on it, he would say in two years’ time there would still be a single currency.

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