Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Could Warren Buffett be checking in soon?

Tightening disposable income, a shrinking economy and a new hotel. If you were looking to sum up today's missive then that would be it so buckle up for some ranting, raving and perhaps even finger waving.

First off it seems as if, once again, we've less to spend on the things we want because we're having to spent more on the things we need. It turns out Mick Jagger really was telling the truth when he sang "you can't always get what you want".

The latest Asda income tracker shows we in Northern Ireland are £12 a week worse off compared to a year ago. That might not sound like much but it's the continuation of a downward trend in disposable income, one which is denting the profitability and feasibility of those companies who service our wants such as restaurants (who's continued emergence we were remarking on in this column only the other day), shops and hotels.

It could strike you then as ominous that news reaches us that planning permission has been granted for a new 100-room hotel in Lisburn on the same day as Asda's survey is released, particularly as there's every chance it could be at the higher end of the hotel spectrum.

Add in the news from the Office of National Statistics that the UK economy shrank in the last quarter of 2011 and warnings by the IMF that the world's economy is in the danger zone and you could be forgiven for thinking that a hotel anytime soon in the city is not likely to open its doors.

But it's times like this, when the chips appear to be down, that shrewd investors strike, making long-term investments in the likes of infrastructure and hotels which will be ready - hopefully - when the economy has picked up pace again.

And, according to those in the know in the hotel industry, the choice of site in Lisburn is a canny one, sitting as it does on the north/south commuter axis coming on the back of the success of the Premier Inn which recently opened in the city.

So, while the news may seem a mixed bag, just remember that one man's downturn is another man's opportunity.

Just look at legendary investor Warren Buffett buying Tesco shares the other day when everyone else was getting rid of them like party guests who have overstayed their welcome.

Who knows, if our plans to get Warren to write this column come to fruition, he may even end up staying in Lisburn's newest hostelry.

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