Belfast Telegraph

View from Dublin: Trump effect taking toll on Irish investment from US

By Richard Curran

When IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan says anything about US multinationals, we have to sit up and take notice.

He leads an agency that knows more about how these US corporations think than they even know themselves.

IDA Ireland's track record over decades bears this out.

So when Mr Shanahan says we cannot be complacent about future US multinational foreign direct investment, it has to be taken seriously.

During the week he urged caution over Ireland's ability to attract vital FDI and added that US firms are slower to make decisions about investing here because of US president Donald Trump's policies.

Mr Trump is the second US President in a row to name-check Ireland as a place where major tax haven-type activities take place.

Throw into the mix the Apple Inc tax finding and the academic study published two weeks ago which found Ireland to be the biggest tax haven in the world with $90bn of multina­tional profits redirected to Ireland last year.

The tax haven line is strongly refuted by the government.

But while it has a point, it increasingly looks like semantics.

The big issue is whether we can rely on the sizeable corporate tax re­ceipts that have been paid in Ireland in recent years.

In good times Ireland bagged around €4bn to €5bn in corporation tax, but last year it was €8bn.

A government-commissioned study suggested these levels were sustainable in the medium term (up to around 2020).

Economist John Fitzgerald believes we need a new tool for measuring real economic activity in Ireland because traditional GDP and even the new Gross National Income (GNI) measure don't capture the full complex picture.

Perhaps the way to look at it is how we define the so-called fiscal space.

Rather than simply count all corporate tax receipts as money that is available to spend, perhaps for a few years at least some of that extra money should be either set aside or spent only on targeted one-off measures.

Either way, we need to ask some tough questions about the durability of our recovery.

The trick when selling some of an enormous plc stake is to ensure you get a good price, while not doing anything that will undermine or damage the share price.

Mr Murtagh's remaining shares in the group are worth over €1bn but he has to be careful how and when he sells.

He seemed to get it spot on, given that after cashing in €50m, Kingspan shares went up.

Not so over at Ryanair, where Mi­chael O'Leary (above)recently sold another €30m of his shares. His remaining stake is worth around €710m.

Ryanair shares fell after the sale, as the Financial Times tried to link the disposal with concerns about Brexit.

Other executives with big plc shares include Eamonn Rothwell of ICG, whose 14.9% stake is worth €130m, and Stephen Vernon whose stake in Green Reit is worth €350m.

One plc founder who has not cashed in at all is Jim Flavin of DCC. He retired from the company several years ago, but retained a 3% stake.

That stake has tripled in value in the last five years and is now worth around €230m.

Belfast Telegraph

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