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Archive for January 5th, 2013

Yesterday morning, the BBC reported that Peter Curistan, the Belfast property developer behind the Odyssey Pavillion in Belfast, and the Parnell Centre shopping centre on Parnell Street in Dublin city centre, had been declared bankrupt on 21st December 2012. He was a prominent borrower from Anglo Irish Bank – now IBRC, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation – and has been involved in a series of litigation – last June 2012, he lost a case in Dublin’s High Court where IBRC was pursuing a loan on the Parnell Centre though that judgment has been appealed to the Supreme Court and the latest on that, in October 2012, is Peter’s solicitors have come “off record”.

Peter also has apparently ongoing litigation against IBRC in Northern Ireland which gave rise to the first judicial assessment of the so-called Maple 10 transaction, where 10 businessmen were loaned money by Anglo to invest in Anglo shares; the judge in Belfast said the transaction was “a prima facie improper and unlawful proceeding” Peter has even recently reported IBRC to the UK police and Irish gardai for alleged shady dealings.

IBRC famously took robust legal action to reverse Sean Quinn’s bankruptcy in Belfast, and it was successful and subsequently had Sean declared bankrupt in Dublin. It seems unlikely that IBRC would contest the legitimacy of Peter’s bankruptcy in Belfast though there are similarities between the two: both born in Northern Ireland, both having business interests in Northern Ireland and the Republic but Sean lives in the Republic, has an Irish passport and pays most of his taxes on this side of the Border. Unlike NAMA, IBRC is not neutral on bankruptcy location, and Minister Noonan told the Dail last year

“I am advised by IBRC that the approach of the Bank is to work constructively with each borrower on an individual basis to identify the most appropriate loan repayment plan. IBRC takes a very serious view of borrowers seeking bankruptcy in other jurisdictions as a means of circumventing the repayment of monies owed to the Bank. Where necessary, and as has occurred previously, the Bank will pursue borrowers to ensure bankruptcy is declared in what it deems to be the correct jurisdiction, with the ultimate goal of maximising recovery of loans for the Bank”

Peter (57) was born in Belfast, was involved in developments in Northern Ireland, the Republic and mainland Britain – he gave an extensive interview here to the Belfast Telegraph in 2007 about his life and career. Although he is a developer and although he had Anglo development loans over the NAMA threshold of €5m, he has not been associated with the Agency and it seems that he is one of the developers whose loans remained at Anglo.

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Table of the Week

2012RTDs

Statistics from An Garda Siochana this week show that fatalities on Irish roads continue on a downward trend, though a still-tragic 161 lost their lives in the 12 months of 2012. By international standards, Irish roads are relatively safe, but statistics also released this week, by Alex Atwood’s Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland showed that 48 people lost their lives on Northern Irish roads last year. The shock is that the deaths per 100,000 in the Republic are a staggering 32% higher than in Northern Ireland, and if we had their same road traffic accident fatality rate, an extra 50 lives would have been saved last year.

RTDs

Contrarian of the Week

The proposals to implement a new 75% rate of income tax applying to annual incomes of over €1m in France had a set-back this week after France’s Constitutional Council declared it unconstitutional. However President Hollande reaffirmed the commitment to the controversial top rate and said the law would be changed to reflect the concerns of the Council. One high-profile casualty of the new tax rate has been actor Gerard Depardieu who after weeks of stomping his feet in a temper and threatening to relocate to Belgium, has been granted Russian citizenship. All very predictable so far.

But in December 2012, our local media ignored the departure from our own shores of one of France’s most famous talents, writer Michel Houellebecq who told the New York Times in December 2012 that he was returning to France, despite there being relatively low tax rates in Ireland. The reason: “I want to speak my language, once again, in everyday life”

Monsieur Houellebecq’s annual income isn’t known, but maybe some things are more important than taxation…

Economic Brightspot of the Week

ISMESurveyJan13

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association published its quarterly survey of SMEs this week, and all 12 of its leading indicators showed positive change between Q3,2012 and Q4,2012. Okay, many of the indicators are still in negative territory, and the response rate is low and the rates were better at snapshots during the past year, but still it was a positive assessment of outlook at our vital small business sector, which is responsible for most employment.

Car of the Week

Model

Really car of the year in Ireland in 2012 was the Ford Focus. The Society of the Irish Motor Industry published statistics this week on new car sales in Ireland for the past 12 months. We won’t be surprised that sales were down 12% from 2011, and down a stonking 48% from 2007.

CarSalesBrand

Hyundai really is “Ireland’s fastest growing car brand” and last year, it recorded a 31% increase in sales with 5,242 units sold. Skoda and Audi also increased their sales last year.

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Quote of the Week

Angela20112012

“Whoever exhibits courage inspires courage” German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured above, right) in her New Year message to the German nation, this is the English-language version Frau Merkel delivered a speech which was very similar in tone to her speech in 2011, pictured above left, and she still is telling people to be under no illusion about the challenges ahead

“There is an all-pervasive negativity in the media that is not helping the mood of a people that is in distress and difficulty. I don’t think the media give a damn about where this is going to bring politics. It is worthy of some thought of where the constant denigration of politics is going to bring us” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte speaking to Harry McGee at the Irish Times 4th January 2012

“I would ask the media to look at all of the [Merrill Lynch] report. We have enough of, frankly, this pervasive negativity all the time trying to take a bad interpretation of a report which in fact was supportive of what Government is doing… So could we kindly get the real message out there” former Taoiseach Brian Cowen speaking in July 2010

Cold shoulder of the Week

 GodSaveOurGraciousQueen

Okay, the above extract is from the pre-Christmas RTE Guide, but it puts all the recent rapprochement in context. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II may have concluded a very successful state visit in 2011 where relations between two neighbours with a difficult past, warmed up considerably and yet in a country where the BBC’s Eastenders is just as popular as in its home, where the Irish Sun is the best selling tabloid, we still managed to describe the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day that Mahmoud Ahmadinejid might have used.

Fourth Estate woe of the Week

PaperOfRecordWhoAreYe

The Irish Times started 2013 with a reader offer – the Irish Times which has a cover price of €2.00 weekdays and  €2.30 for the weekend edition published on Saturdays  – and knocked €81 off the standard price of €159 for home delivery for three months or 13 weeks. After half a day on Tuesday, just 2 of the 100 available subscriptions had been purchased for the discounted price of €78 which the Irish Times, “The Paper of Record” said was “over half price”. During the Christmas break you might have missed Laura Slattery reporting “Having concluded that advertising-only digital revenue models don’t add up, both dailies [the Irish Times and the Irish Independent] plan to erect paywalls in 2013.” With RTE, the Irish Examiner and Daily Business Post, radio websites and regional newspapers, there will be skepticism that the reduction in online-advertising that will be a result of a paywall will offset increased subscriptions or paper sales.

Logical economist of the Week

University of Limerick Lecturer of Economics, Dr Dr Stephen Kinsella might have two PhDs but he’s not a medical doctor, but chances are if he turned his attention to brain surgery, he’d be Dr Dr Dr Kinsella in no time. In his column in the Irish Independent on Friday – not available online from the Independent but will probably be available from Stephen’s own website shortly – we learned what canaries in a coalmine can teach us about Ireland path-finding its way through this financial crisis which benefits the “miners” in other European countries who have yet to really get to grips with their own banking crises. But we also learn about doxastic commitment which is described as a commitment towards a stated intention that goes beyond words – the canary in the mine has a doxastic commitment to its role of chirping like the bejaysus if it smells gas because it will be the first to pop its clogs if the miners don’t withdraw quickly, and Enda Kenny has a doxastic commitment to securing meaningful relief on our bank debt because his legacy and political future depends on it.

There’s a very complicated-looking wiki entry on doxastic logic if you fancy giving the brain cells a jog.

Battle royal of the week

Duke of Mearescourt versus Earl of Meares (seriously, don’t switch off, you’ll enjoy this)

MearescourtHouse

When you think of royalty, you tend to think of the British, though both Gerry Adams and (James) Martin (Pacelli!) McGuinness have in recent times had to endure the indignation of being conferred with the title of Steward of the Manor of Northstead because the British parliamentary system doesn’t allow MPs to simply resign. But no, we actually have our own royalty in Ireland, and in the case of Mearescourt House in Westmeath – pictured above, courtesy of the CastlesinIreland website – the owners are entitled to titles. And guess who the owners are, or at least, have been? Step forward one Cortina-averse NAMA developer, David Agar and a Westmeath businessman, George Tracey who are, respectively, the Earl of Meares and the Duke  of Mearescourt by virtue of their control of Mearescourt House in Westmeath – the website, mch.ie is no longer online so we can’t check their exact current status. And in the High Court this week, the pursuit by the Earl of an alleged €500,000 loan to the Duke continued with AIB in the middle because the alleged loan was used to buy a stake in a Japanese property fund managed by AIB. We learned that the Duke was not just a business associate, but best man and godfather to a child of the Earl. The case is set to resume at the High Court later in January.

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