The Euro Stoxx 50 index gives us a snapshot of how EU denominated stocks are performing. As they also indicate where institutional investors with Euro denominated liabilities should hold their offsetting assets, they play pivotal roles in the management of pension funds.
Ireland having three companies on that index is something that should inspire a glimmer of confidence in our Emerald Isle.
Until we look a bit more closely at those three companies and the issues around them, that is. The three companies flying the Irish flag are CRH, Flutter Entertainment and Linde PLC and each of them is, in its own way, a curse on the Irish people.
Linde is a multinational chemical company, founded in Germany in 1879, now headquartered in England but registered in Ireland for paper-shuffling reasons that bring no benefits to the Irish economy but only make us look stronger, or more ridiculous, than we are. Linde would do us a favour by doing their paper shuffling elsewhere.
Flutter Entertainment plc (formerly Paddy Power Betfair plc) is an Irish bookmaking holding company created by the merger of Paddy Power and Betfair, and the later acquisition of Canadian online gambling outfit The Stars Group.
Other gambling brands in their portfolio include Adjarabet, BetEasy, Betfair, BetStars, FanDuel, Fox Bet, Full Tilt Poker, Paddy Power, PokerStars, Sky Bet, Sportsbet.com.au, Timeform and TVG Network.
Although the government would argue Flutter Entertainment provides employment, they are the wrong kinds of jobs as they depend on parting fools from their money. We and, more precisely, their victims, would be better off without them and their jobs.
Bad and all as those first two are, CRH, originally bankrolled by Hospital Sweepstakes’ godfather Joe McGrath and helped along by Charlie Haughey and a series of other colourful politicians, is easily the worst of the lot.
Although CRH, which dwarfs all other companies on the Irish stock exchange, has been linked to the Ansbacher accounts’ scandal and several other dirty dealings in high places, those scandals are not my major criticism of CRH.
My main bone of contention is its core business is central to the construction industry and our bloated construction industry is bad for Ireland and the Irish, who should not be forever condemned to keep CRH and their political cronies in clover.
The construction industry is good for short-sighted politicians as it is a quick way to get money circulating in the economy through the purchase of CRH’s materials, as well as wages to workers and profits to speculators. However, the pointless building we are currently witnessing, with mile after ugly mile of unaffordable apartments is of no use to anybody, those directly benefiting from this madness excepted.
Our current situation, where apartments are being built to house an apparently bottomless well of refugees and homeless seems a very lop-sided policy, certainly when compared to the housing boom of the 1950s and 1960 when houses were built adjacent to factories and convenient to commuter routes.
The situation then was people lived in well-built council houses, paid affordable mortgages and had steady employment and social lives. The situation now is that almost everyone working gets rent assistance, for which foreign landlords should be grateful, but has little prospect of ever owning their own place. To paraphrase Klaus Schwab, they will own nothing and probably will never be happy.
Stock markets exist to take risks banks cannot. And what of our banks? What happened to them? Well, prior to the financial crash of some years ago, AIB was listed in the Euro Stoxx 50, when it replaced Volkswagen, the people’s car, founded in Hitler’s Germany in 1937, when autobahn construction was also booming (to allow Panzer columns move quickly from East to West and vice versa).
Though Volkswagen, along with German and French financial institutions, is still listed in the EuroStoxx50, Irish banks are not. And this is not only on account of their relatively small size but also on account of their rank stupidity where they, with their political sponsors, were central to the financial crash, which has emasculated us for many decades yet to come.
Although Ryanair and other Irish companies do not currently make the EuroStoxx 50 cut, there are many other important non-Irish companies that are also absent. One very important one is the privately owned Schwarz Gruppe, which owns the Lidl brand which, with Aldi, another huge private German conglomerate, is ubiquitous in Ireland. Their relevance to us is that, with Tesco and other foreign-owned concerns, they siphon money out of our towns, villages and cities, with little coming back in the other direction.
Although I previously mentioned Hitler, his autobahns and his people’s car, his economic policies led Germany inexorably into the void. Although our leaders have different objectives, they suffer from the same misconception that we can continually build our way into prosperity, as if the ugly apartments that blight our land can bring prosperity to anyone but CRH and the speculators that collude with them. They cannot.
And nor can the policies of Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum, who dictate that the residents of Wexford, to take but one important Irish county, should be herded into CRH built apartments in a number of Wexford towns and the county’s abandoned farmland be handed over to grow what they want grown there, to reduce Wexford’s minuscule carbon footprint no less.
Schwab’s answer to Wexford’s resultant woes is that those who lose their jobs should become more entrepreneurial, that they should busk their way to riches, become Instagram “influencers” or whatever.
Although Schwab is just a latter day Marie Antoinette lacking her dress sense, what are we to make of our overpaid and under-worked politicians, who can come up with nothing better than the selfish ravings of CRH, Betfair and Klaus Schwab? Not much, I think, but then our political system, like our financial system, is evolving into a way where we have next to no input, saving voting for CRH’s sidekicks in elections every few years.
Dr Declan Hayes is a retired professor of Finance, who has lectured in leading universities in Japan, England, Ireland, Mexico and Australia.