Closing Bell: War on Luxembourg, re-imagining the public/private pay debate, taking on Tickmaster

Newstalk business editor Vincent Wall casts a cold eye over the week that was...

Closing Bell: War on Luxembourg, re-imagining the public/private pay debate, taking on Tickmaster

Image from video produced by ICIJ

It may be that we will have to declare war on Luxembourg, if not actually plan for an actual invasion.

Well, perhaps not, but the ante in the growing battle between ourselves and the Grand Duchy for European operations of London-based financial organisations, was certainly upped during the week with Luxembourg’s airing of a so-called legal claim to the relocating, European Banking Authority.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker claiming a legal right to house the institution

This claim, seemingly, goes back to 1965, when in EU terms we were no more than a glint in Charles de Gaulle’s eye, and more importantly, could not have been party to such an arrangement.

This airing of an alleged prior legal claim to the prestigious EBA and its 160 well-paid staff follows allegations from our own Junior Finance Minister, Eoghan Murphy – though Luxembourg wasn’t formally named – that certain jurisdictions weren’t prepared to play by the full suite of Queensbury Rules when it came to insurance regulation and thereby were in a position to tout unfairly for attractive operations such as AIG.

Luxembourg denied the allegations and, I suppose we should be thankful, did not declare war itself.

Whatever about war, all hell might have broken out in certain quarters here, if our disappointment at not securing Lloyds of London new European operations, had been compounded by its choice too of Luxembourg. Thankfully, they’re off to Brussels, and highlighted Belgium’s “robust regulatory framework” as one of the reasons why.

Instead of placing the Defence Forces on alert, we probably need to calm down a bit in public; let the IDA and our diplomats do what they have done so well for years and quietly use the levers we do have at our disposal – and regulatory flexibility should not be one of those – to win our fair share of any migratory business out there.

We also need to keep in mind, that for all its attractions, Dublin is not the centre of the universe, nor even of the European landmass.

Indeed, post-Brexit, Cork could claim to be closer in physical terms to the next EU member state than Dublin.

No reason to believe this is why the back office corporate services provider, Alter Domus is establishing a new office and creating 60 jobs in the southern capital - but a welcome investment, none the less (from a Luxembourg-based firm.)

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Eir’s competitors here must have looked on with interest as the UK Regulator, Ofcom imposed a record fine £42m fine on BT across channel earlier this week for failing to compensate operators such as Vodafone for overly slow upgrading of broadband services to their customers.

Many of the same operators here have complained in recent years of, not exactly comparable but similar, alleged infringements by Eir of its dominant wholesale position in the market.

Our own regulator Comreg, has instigated reviews into allegations of overly- slow connection of broadband services to the end users of Eir’s wholesale customers, or of not moving with required speed to fix any breakdowns in wholesale services.

No massive fines this side of the water yet, but perhaps there were no similar infractions uncovered.

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With all the kerfuffle this week about the latest Garda controversies, the worsening dispute at Bus Eireann and the sending of that letter by Theresa May from London to Brussels, the finding by Davy economist, Conall Mac Coille, that public sector employees earn up to 40% more on average than their private sector equivalents, may not have got the airing it otherwise would have.

Davy estimated that only half this differential could be attributed to the long-standing reasons given for it such as higher educational standards, qualifications and experience. And neither does the pay differential factor in the indisputable additional benefits most public sector employees enjoy of job security and guaranteed pension benefits.

Interestingly, as we gear up for the competitive challenges posed by Brexit, the competitiveness of wage rates paid to public servants here, compared to those in the UK, has not been aired too frequently.

The Report found that there is almost no differential between average public sector pay and private sector equivalents in the UK and that average pay, in both cases, are significantly lower than here.

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There have been many attempts over the years to take on the leading position enjoyed in the ticket distribution market for entertainment and leisure events, by Ticketmaster – fair dues to them.

Enter the next contestant into the ring, a young Irish software company called Coras. It plans to enable the organisers of concerts and other events to distribute their tickets via a range of social media and consumer brand sites, frequently visited by the likely buyers of the same tickets.


It will be interesting to see if, from a financial and logistics point of view, this more scattergun approach will prove as attractive to event organisers as the very focussed, but relatively unchallenged, Ticketmaster network.

U2 guitarist the Edge must think so, and he should know a little about how these things work.  He’s one of the group of individuals and venture capital firms that have stumped up €1.9m in funding for Coras.

Too late of course for tickets for the Joshua Tree Tour 2017, including the gig in Croke Park in July.