Will phone magnate follow role models?

Has Denis O’Brien dropped a hint as to what might be his long-term goal in life?

In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters on his interest in Haiti, published yesterday, O’Brien referenced two other developing world mobile billionaires – Sudanese-born British rich man Mo Ibrahim, founder of Celtel, an Africa-wide cellphone network, and India-based Sunil Mittal, founder of Bharti Airtel.

O’Brien models himself on the two men who he claims, “proved the concept that you can have people with very little disposable income in real terms, but who want a phone and they’ll pay you for it, and you can afford to build up quite a large network”. It is a concept that O’Brien has applied with gusto in Haiti, which remains Digicel’s largest market and where the company is on the verge of introducing smartphones .

Ibrahim sold Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion and now runs the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, while Mittal also runs his own foundation, the article noted.

This raises the intriguing prospect of O’Brien chucking it all in and cashing out of Digicel to devote himself to further good works.

A foundation to encourage better governance in Ireland per chance?

Consumers have enough on their plate

The discovery of horse meat in some of Ireland’s processed burgers has provoked not only outrage, but also a great deal of equine humour, much of it relating to having “a horse outside” a la The Rubberbandits. It’s all pretty funny, unless perhaps you’re a responsible executive in one of the implicated companies or, even worse, a consumer who cannot now be sure what precisely they have consumed.

Horses hold a position of great affection in Irish society, with the idea of cooking up a Black Beauty casserole about as appetising to most as chopping up and roasting the kitchen table. It is simply not done.

This is not, however, the most important aspect of the revelations of recent days.

Not wanting to eat horsemeat is one thing; not being able to safely rely on food labelling is an entirely different and more serious one. It is in this sense that the equine content of “beef burgers” is (to mix foodstuffs) something of a red herring.

Tesco’s Everyday Value beef burgers were found by the Food Safety Authority to contain just shy of 30 per cent horse meat. This was presumably a secret to almost all involved until the FSA conducted its tests.

Taking this to its extension, it is a mere hop and a skip to the conclusion that absolutely anything could be included in an Irish burger (or another processed meat) as long as it doesn’t interfere with the flavour.

Sawdust nuggets, anybody?

This leads to a fundamental loss of trust in any kind of meat that is processed through a factory and comes out the other end in a different form.

Consumers deserve better, as do the retailers that have little choice but to place their confidence in meat factories.

This brings us to the Government, which has not to date been conducting DNA tests in meat plants.

In an ideal world, this is not something that would have to happen, but this week’s events unfortunately prove it is now urgently needed.

In its absence, it is hard to dismiss the notion that horse meat could just be the start of something much bigger.

Kallakis case closes to AIB’s certain relief

AIB must be hoping that the conviction in London of Achilleas Kallakis and Alexander Williams will draw a veil over what has been an excruciating episode for the bank.

The verdict confirms that the bank was the victim of a very elaborate £740 million fraud, but at the same time it was the architect of its own downfall to a significant extent.

In a parting shot yesterday, George Carter-Stephenson QC accused AIB of “contributory negligence” and having a sloppy attitude to paperwork.

He said this had been “brought about by what may appear to be the rather cavalier attitude of banks towards the lending of vast sums of money”.

This of course will come as no surprise to anyone on this side of the water, although things are much better at the bank now we are told.

What we have not been told is why AIB did what it did with the Kallakis properties once it seized them in 2008.

The portfolio was sold to Green Property on very attractive terms but at what seemed at the time to be a very good price given the state of the London property market and the state of the global credit markets.

The deal left the bank open to accusations that it was trying to avoid having to take a big writedown on the value of a portfolio at what could not have been a worst time. Like every other bank, AIB was trying desperately to convince everyone – including itself – that it was solvent.

Time has found the bank out in that regard and it has also rendered the questions surrounding the Green deal somewhat moot as the performance of London commercial property has confounded most of the predictions made in 2008.

The bank has always declined to discuss the transaction and how it made financial sense for the bank on the basis that there was an ongoing legal action involving Kallakis.

Now the issue is resolved chief executive David Duffy (above) is in a position to clear things up if he so chooses.


The CSO will release December inflation figures and the High Court will hear an update on the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s investigation into the former Anglo Irish Bank.



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1 thought on “Cantillon

  1. What is wrong with horse meat.The french eat this all of the times.

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