Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Quinn goes bust but summit special's in air

A tycoon hits the wall, a bank goes into meltdown and , G8 check in. David Elliott on a tumultuous year in business

Rising unemployment, a slowing economy, falling house prices and still no decision on whether to devolve Northern Ireland's corporation tax-setting powers.

You could easily say the main economic events of the last 12 months aren't much different to the previous two or three years but there's no doubting 2012 has witnessed plenty of headline grabbing business news.

The saga of Quinn Group was expected to fade into the background this year but instead picked up pace as patriarch Sean Quinn tried unsuccessfully to be declared bankrupt in Northern Ireland.

Instead he was dragged kicking and screaming in front of the Dublin courts in January where more stringent laws mean he can't start trading again for another 12 years, not that he'll be in much of a hurry to do so having spent the last few weeks in prison.

Dabbling in banking was the downfall of the one-time quarryman and it was one of Northern Ireland's big lenders which found itself at the centre of a protracted 'glitch' as the not-so balmy summer got underway.

After dusting itself down from one of the worst economic downturns since the post war years, Ulster Bank and parent RBS were faced with a computer problem that clogged thousands of transactions and required slightly more than a reboot to fix.

Meanwhile, another of the 'big four' lenders in Belfast's Donegall Square waved farewell to its 200-year-old name.

Danske Bank raised a few eyebrows when it was first unveiled as the new Northern Bank, but, given it's been under the ownership of the Copenhagen-based institution for a number of years, the name change proved more of an emotional than practical obstacle to overcome.

Another feature of the year was the continual battle, by some, for the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers to the Executive.

Losing the gung-ho proponent Owen Paterson to Defra was thought to have taken the wind out of the movement's sails and the expected decision from David Cameron in the latter half of the year failed to emerge.

Newly-appointed Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has given her backing to the potential for a tax cut but it's still in the in-tray at Downing Street and a decision isn't expected anytime soon.

On the tourism front Northern Ireland has had a year in the spotlight with the likes of the Irish Open Golf Championship, the opening of the Titanic Building and the Our Time, Our Place marketing campaign by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board all helping put the country in front of a global audience.

But dwarfing all these was the announcement that a meeting of the G8, will take place in none other than Fermanagh this year.

If ever there was a way to round off an economic year then surely attracting the leaders of the most powerful economies in the world is it.

70%

Year on year rise in online sales recorded by retailer John Lewis12

Number of years before Sean Quinn can start trading again200

Northern Bank says farewell to its name after 200 years£100m

New Titanic Belfast proves a boon for tourism in the capital

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk