MHC Times Issue 34
08 April 2014
After six very enjoyable years as Managing Partner this is my last Diary for MHC Times. Declan Black becomes our Managing Partner in April, and I now join with all our colleagues in wishing him success in that role. My six years have been very challenging, but rewarding. I took over the position in 2008, just coinciding with the start of Ireland’s recession. Despite the difficult economic environment the firm has continued to expand, doubling in revenues and personnel over the six-year term. A landmark move was our merger with Arthur O’Hagan in late 2008, which brought us tremendous strength and depth in areas such as healthcare and education law. Separately, the firm has posted growth and development in other areas, and we now have Ireland’s largest litigation and employment law teams, together with market leading practices in the financial services, construction, technology and energy sectors.
As Mason Hayes & Curran has developed its strengths and market profile, the variety and sophistication of instructions received has been striking. Examples of recent breakthrough matters included representing Liberty Mutual Insurance in its innovative and successful mode of entry to the Irish market, advising and negotiating for Facebook in its global data privacy audit by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, and advising the Irish communications regulator on Ireland’s recent €854m 4G spectrum auction.
Other major matters included advising Berkshire Partners, Advent International Corporation and Bain Capital Partners in their US$ 1.2 billion offer for Skillsoft, and advising Dragon Oil in the US$ 1.9 billion recommended offer by Emirates National Oil Company.
I am confident that the extent and quality of the firm’s work will continue to grow, especially given the notable recovery now being experienced in the Irish economy. International commentators and rating agencies are almost unanimously of the view that Ireland is emerging from its difficulties with speed and vigour. For example, Forbes has labelled Ireland as the best country for business”. And the new and positive ratings by Moody’s are a long awaited and very welcome endorsement of the country’s policies and performance.
Ireland was ranked 10th in the world for Foreign Direct Investment performance in 2013, an improvement of one place over twelve months. This is significant as the latest UNCTAD Global Investment Trends Monitor forecasts that FDI flows will rise gradually in 2014 and 2015, to US$ 1.6 trillion and US$ 1.8 trillion respectively as global economic growth gains momentum.
During 2013 Ireland secured 164 FDI type entrants, up 13% on 2012, with 78 companies investing in Ireland for the first time. This is a resounding affirmation of global confidence in the country, and testimony to the talent available here. Over half the FDI entrants to Ireland came from the technology sector during 2013. We were proud to work with entrants such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Last October’s Dublin Web Summit (Europe’s largest technology event) put on display the dynamic nature of the country’s technology sector. Over 10,000 guests attended the event from all around the world, and our firm was an enthusiastic and committed sponsor and participant in the event.
Not all technology activity emanates from abroad, as witnessed by our representation of the sellers of Storyful to News Corp in late 2013. Storyful is the brainchild of Irishman Mark Little, who used his media and broadcasting background to develop a business model on filtering, verifying and arranging clearance for newsworthy video clips. Although just 30 months old, Storyful made its presence felt in the international marketplace, and attracted a world leader in news dissemination as its acquirer.
It is important to note that FDI is not limited to the technology sector. Ireland continues to be a prime location of choice for the establishment, growth and investment in a range of business types and activities. Our economy’s accelerating competitiveness and productivity levels are major magnets, especially when combined with the clarity and commitment of our Government to the 12.5% corporate tax rate which serves our investors so well.
In surveying economic activity in the country I must also mention the marked growth in real estate and financial services. For example the Canadian REIT, CAPREIT, has transacted its first European investments in Ireland in recent months. Separately the vibrancy of the aircraft leasing sector is a good example of activity in Irish financial services. In the coming months we expect to see increased transaction levels in the sale and acquisition of large tranches of real estate and related loan portfolios, mostly the product of the rationalisation of Ireland’s banking sector and real estate market. The arrival of REITs as investment vehicles is helping to keep these markets moving.
I hope you have found these comments interesting. Many thanks to the firm’s loyal clients and supporters over the last six years. I hope we will stay in contact when I take up my new role as Chairperson of Mason Hayes & Curran in April.