By Harry Keaney
Despite the fears and predictions of some, Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy is not en route to a crash landing, a leading U.S. economist said in Dublin last week.
David Hale, global chief economist with the Zurich Financial Services Group, said Ireland’s experience can reflect that of U.S. regions such as New England, which have experienced strong growth without a subsequent crash.
Hale said that even house-price inflation is not as bad in Ireland as in boom areas in the U.S., such as California, for example.
"Dublin house prices still aren’t as high as they are in Silicon Valley," he said.
Hale was addressing a conference organized by the insurance company Eagle Star.
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Expanding to U.S.
It’s now an accepted pattern: when Irish software companies get on their feet, Uncle Sam beckons. Two of the latest such companies are Braxtel Communications and JLS Software Solutions.
Braxtel is a call center software company, and having recently raised second-round funding of £10 million, it is now expanding in the U.S.
Chief Operating Officer Rusty Coleman said that the company’s Dublin office would serve as a customer service base but that Boston would be its overall headquarters. The company already has a sales presence in Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles, with a planned opening in Dallas.
Braxtel was originally launched as SalesLan in 1997.
Meanwhile, JLS Software Solutions, has raised £5 million to finance its expansion to the United States.
FPS helps banks to streamline its existing software, allowing them to track customers through the branch, the ATM, over the phone or on the web, thus giving the bank a single profile of a customer. With 40 percent of the Irish market, JLS will, according to Irish news reports, now market its FPS Voy@ger package to the U.S. banking sector.
Keep an eye on both companies for possible stock market flotations at some time in the future.
Networking in Boston
The last meeting of the year of the Irish Networking Society of Boston will will take place Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Wyndham Hotel, 89 Broad St.
The meeting will showcase the gift products of several local companies.
Afterward, there will be a Christmas get-together at Tiernan’s Restaurant, 99 Broad St.
The Irish Networking Society was established in March 1995 to provide a forum for people to meet, network, and socialize.
For more information about the Society, log onto www.celticweb.com/ins, or call the messageline at (781) 446-8074.
While inflation is increasing in Ireland, managerial salaries certainly are not among the causes. According to a report from the Irish Management Institute, salaries of managers rose by an average of 6.8 percent in the year to April 2000. The increase is just 1.8 percent ahead of inflation.
The increase has been described as "modest" by IMI Chief Executive Barry Kenny.
"I have no doubt that, given our strong economic performance, we can afford this level of increase without affecting our competitive position," Kenny said.
The IMI’s survey also found that higher levels of pay increase were confined to areas in which there is skills shortages, such as in the information technology sector.
Thirty-two percent of companies gave their chief executive a Mercedes-Benz; 21 percent got a BMW.
These are tumultuous times for the stocks of high companies, particularly the .coms. Last week, almost all the Irish high-tech companies saw a drop in their prices by close of business Monday. Among those whose stock fell were CBT, down 6 points; Elan, down almost 4; ICON, down more than 2; Iona, down 18; Trinity Technology, down 1.69, and Riverdeep, down .625.
But, such is the topsy-turvy nature of the high-tech market that rebounds came as quickly. By Wednesday, Iona was up 15.4 percent to $65, Trintech was up 8.7 percent to $9.4, and Riverdeep closed up 1.63 percent at $22.6. Baltimore was up almost 10 points.
So, what’s down one day is up the next. Keep watching those tables, particularly those of the tech-laden Nasdaq.
Election in the air?
There is increased speculation that next year may well be an election year in Ireland. That’s because government figures released last week show that Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy intends to vastly increase spending next year in election-sensitive sectors such as health, education, welfare, childcare and the transport system.
What exactly McCreevy has in mind will be revealed Dec. 6, which is budget day in Ireland.
Government spending estimates for next year show an almost extra £1.5 billion extra for the day-to-day running of the country and £740 million more for investment in roads, railways, sewers, waterworks and services to facilitate the building of more than 50,000 houses.
Tax rates are also expected to be cut.
Allied Irish Bank has appointed Derek Higgs, a former chairman of the investment bank S.G. Warburg, to its board as a non-executive director.