By Stephen McKinley
Ireland’s minister for agriculture, Joe Walsh, has threatened to veto any new trade negotiations within the European Union that could jeopardize subsidies to farmers.
Walsh was speaking at a World Trade Organization meeting, where he said the EU must not budge when confronted by demands from the U.S. and other countries for subsidies to be renegotiated.
Other EU countries, however, including the Scandianavian states and the UK, have said that they may be open to negotiation.
France is the only other country to unequivocally back the Irish position on subsidies. But all 15 member states have to agree to any change.
Walsh pointed out that direct payments account for 60 percent of the average Irish farmer’s income. As a state that exports a third of its agricultural produce outside the EU, Ireland has an important interest in retaining export refunds, he said.
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“There is no reason why agriculture should be made a sacrificial lamb for a new trade round,” Walsh said.
Some good news may be on the way for Donegal and Derry. With the cutbacks at the Fruit of the Loom clothing factory, the Northwest experienced job losses and a vital local industry was lost. Now, however, it seems that one of the world’s richest men may have acquired the company — Warren E. Buffett.
It is believed that Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, will buy the company for $835 million and locals are hoping that his investment will secure jobs for the area into the future.
“We’ve agreed to buy Fruit of the Loom for two major reasons: the strength of the brand and the managerial talent of John Holland,” Buffett said.
Fruit of the Loom currently employs about 850 people at its Northwest headquarters in Buncrana and at Campsie, Derry. It has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 1999. In a major blow to the local economy in that year, the company closed factories in Malin, Raphoe and Milford with the loss of 770 jobs.
Buncrana-based Joe Mullan, Fruit of the Loom’s senior vice president for manufacturing, Europe, welcomed the news.
“This announcement is excellent news for Fruit of the Loom,” he said. “Mr. Buffet has a longstanding track record of making sound investment decisions, and we are sure that this will be a very positive step for the company as a whole. Berkshire Hathaway’s faith in our business plan for the company is evident from Mr. Buffett’s comments. We look forward to seeing our vision for the growth and development of Fruit of the Loom in Europe being realized.”
There’s a good chance Buffet made the investment with an eye on the long-term returns. He started his legendary investing career in 1956 when he started with just $100.
Nasdaq equals nosedive?
These days, most people associate the word Nasdaq with nosedive, with memories of Internet stocks collapsing into worthlessness still fresh.
But Irish stockbrokers Goodbody’s is urging people to think again. At a seminar last week in Ballsbridge at the company’s head office, the director of business development, David Lowe, sought to change hearts and minds about the Nasdaq.
A dual listing on the Irish stock exchange and on the Nasdaq, he said, was advantageous.
“When advising Irish companies, we typically suggest that companies seek a dual listing both here and on Nasdaq. This has the advantage of compressing the amount of due diligence required as well as maximizing investor demand.”
Robert Atwater, the director of Nasdaq, and a keynote speaker at the event, presented the some of the benefits of listing on Nasdaq.
“Based on our global reach a dual listing with Nasdaq can open the doors for Irish companies to capital not just in the US but on a global basis,” he said.
Execair in Dublin
Menzies Aviation Group has expanded its operations to Ireland after acquiring Dublin-based Parc Aviation Handling Limited. PAHL will be renamed Execair.
Execair’s operations director, Alex MacDonald, said: “Parc Aviation has provided executive handling at Dublin airport for the last 11 years and has, over that period, built up a very good reputation for quality and service. It’s a key location and Dublin is a growing airport.
“We will look to increase staffing numbers as traffic levels increase . . . we’re planning a lounge refurbishment, an upgrade of the current vehicles and also a revamp of the operations area.”