By Patrick Markey
Small and medium-sized Irish firms are continuing to underestimate the effects of the Euro on their businesses, according to a recent survey.
The survey, carried out by AIB and the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland, found nine out of 10 small and medium businesses (SME) have not analyzed the impact of potential changes in customer and competitor behavior after the EMU is introduced, the Sunday Business Post said.
Simon Nugent, chief executive of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland, said Irish SMEs seem to be relying on blind faith in regards to the new currency.
“While 71 percent of businesses surveyed believe the introduction of the euro will have a positive long-term impact on their business, almost all admit they have not prepared a report or forecast on how it will affect their operational and day-to-day activities,” Nugent said.
“With only six months to go before the euro is introduced, that is very worrying. Small firms must decide now when they are going to change over, what is involved and what the competitive landscape will look like in the eurozone.”
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According to the survey, half of the 560 firms questioned believe the single currency will lead to more import opportunities, with only 35 percent believing it will improve exporting. Nugent described the 47 percent who saw no competitive threat arising from the introduction of the euro as optimistic.
The Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the U.S. is sponsoring a “Business After Hours,” an informal session in Midtown Manhattan to help business leaders develop new contacts and fresh leads. The session will be held at Gallagher’s Steak House, 228 West 52nd St., NYC on Wednesday, July 22. ICCUSA members pay $25, non-members $35. Reservations should be made by July 20 by calling Sharon McCarthy at (212) 248-0008.
EuroAir Pass extends service
EuroAir Pass, the joint ticket project of several European airlines, has extended its membership to three more members. The new airlines joining the project extend the routes available from Ireland in the west to Moscow and Kiev in eastern Europe.
The program, which was launched two months ago, now has 12 member airlines. The new members accepting the $90 flight fare are Estonian Airlines, Icelandair and AB Airlines. AB Airlines fly between Shannon, Ireland and London Gatwick, London Stansted, and Birmingham and between London and Berlin.
The passes are sold in packs of three and only in North America. Passes are valid for 120 days. Other airlines involved in the program are Aer Lingus, Air Baltic, Air Greece, Air One, Augusburg, Portugalia, Spain air, Virgin Express and VLM. Details available at 1 (888) 387-2479.
Carefree Journeys, a Dublin-based group, has produced a booklet which identifies businesses such as restaurants and hotels which have access facilities for those travelers with mobility and disability problems.
The Carefree Journeys and Holidays directory, produced with the support of the Bord Failte and the Northern Irish Tourist Board, provides information on accommodations, restaurants, leisure areas, and heritage centers that are easily accessible to those with disabilities and to the visually impaired.
The publication helps those with such problems to plan and enjoy holidays as independently and as easily as possible. It will be available for free through Bord Failte offices and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Disability Action and Shannon Development.
Virgin Express to move to Ireland
Virgin Express, the Europe-based low-cost airline, plans to move to Ireland to escape Belgium’s high labor costs and what the company believes is excessive government and union interference.
The Irish Times business section reports Belgium’s second biggest airline is applying for an Irish air operator’s certificate, which would allow it to transfer its headquarters and employment contracts to Ireland, while continuing to fly most of its scheduled services out of Brussels.
Virgin Express is not the only Belgian airline seeking to avoid the country’s high charges and taxes. Sabena, the nation’s largest carrier, recently warned it was considering moving to Switzerland. Virgin Express expects to receive its Irish operator’s license in November, after which it would be free to relocate.
ISE goes French
The Irish Stock Exchange is expected to forge a formal link with the French stock market by next year, an alliance that could provide a Europe-wide listing and presence for all the financial and industrial companies listed on the Irish stock market, the Irish Times reported recently.
Stock exchange executive, Tom Healy, did not comment on the link-up with Paris, but he confirmed that the exchange has been looking at possible links with several European markets, including those in France, Spain and Scandinavia.
A pan-European Top 300 proposed in the alliance between London and Frankfurt would benefit only a very small number of Irish companies. The FTSE Eurotop 300 currently includes only three Irish companies – AIB, Bank of Ireland and CRH – and excludes companies such as Smurfit, Kerry and Irish Life.
The paper reports that market sources believe that it is crucial that the ISE forges links with a major European market like Paris when EMU becomes a reality.