Business News

DataStax opens first Irish office creating 30 jobs in Cork

DataStax, a US-based data management IT company, is to create 30 jobs in Cork with the opening of its first office in Ireland.

The California-based company, which was founded in 2010, currently has over 500 employees based in multiple US and international locations.

The move into Ireland is a chance for DataStax to expand its back-office operations and opens the possibility for attracting a wider range of talent in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe the company said.

“Our investment in Ireland is further reflection of the reputation held by Ireland in terms of the talent and resources available and will be a key foundation of DataStax’s further growth in both US and international markets” Niall Cotter of DataStax said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney T.D. described the announcement as “a vote of confidence in Cork’s business ecosystem.”

The move is supported by IDA Ireland, with Mary Buckley, director of IDA Ireland, saying that Cork’s tech infrastructure, talent pool, and supportive academic network has “created a compelling business environment which continues to attract investment from overseas companies in the technology sector.”

Among the companies that DataStax works with are Comcast, eBay, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Safeway, Sony, UBS, and Walmart.

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Europe IPO market up 5pc in first half

The European IPO market posted a 5pc increase in money raised in the first half of 2018, with total proceeds of €21.8bn.

The number of initial public offerings was up 4pc at 168.

The figures are contained in a new report from PwC, which said that after a strong first quarter activity had become subdued in the second quarter – with a 43pc decrease in money raised and a 7pc decrease in IPO numbers compared to the same quarter last year.

Activity this year was boosted by large offerings from health care business Siemens Healthineers, which raised €4.2bn, and Deutsche Bank’s asset manager DWS Group, which raised €1.3bn).

Both of those companies listed on the Deutsche Borse in Frankfurt.

Activity was strong in Dublin in the first half also, where the Irish Stock Exchange was acquired by Euronext and rebranded as Euronext Dublin.

Edtech business, virtual reality education and property investor Yew Grove Reit completed flotations, while Glenveagh Properties and Greencoat Renewables raised fresh capital.

But with geopolitical matters ranging from trade disputes to Brexit posing uncertainty, PwC warned that the market could become more difficult.

“Volatility could well creep back into the markets, potentially unsettling the IPO markets across Europe,” said Denis O’Connor, from PwC Ireland’s transaction services arm.

“Pricing will likely remain a challenge and investors are increasingly selective. That said, we expect to see the volume of IPO activity picking up again in the second half of the year.

“Despite a more subdued second quarter, and the current economic and political outlook, the market is open and deals are being done.”

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Apple expects profit to soar as iPhone X boosts strong sales

Apple is expected to unveil its biggest rise in profits since late 2015, with third-quarter revenue set to hit $52.9bn (€45.3bn), boosted by dearer iPhones and strong sales from its lucrative app store and services business.

Analysts and mobile industry sources expect investors in the Silicon Valley giant to receive the welcome news of another quarter of significant year-on-year growth when the group reports its quarterly results tomorrow night.

Some estimate growth as high as 37pc in earnings per share. It was only last quarter that Apple broke its own record for the biggest quarterly profit of all time, despite a fall in iPhone sales.

The technology giant sold 52.2 million iPhones in the second quarter of 2018, up by 2.9pc from 50.6 million in the same quarter the previous year.

The higher price of the new handsets meant that revenue from selling iPhones rose.

The high price tag for the iPhone X should buffer any further drop in sales, analysts predict. Insiders have said that Apple’s services – made up of the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud, iTunes, Licensing, Apple Care and Apple Pay – could soar by 19pc.

Apple’s sales and earnings are typically lower in the third quarter, prior to the arrival of new phone models, which are usually unveiled in September.

But Guggenheim Partners estimates that Apple will hit a 4pc increase in sales in comparison to the same period last year.

The promising figures are shrouded somewhat by figures from Gartner, suggesting that worldwide smartphone sales declined for the first time in 2017 and that growth could be cooling across the industry.

Analysts will use Tuesday’s earnings call to grill Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, on how the company will evolve in a maturing smartphone market, where the pace of innovation has slowed.

The company’s failure to sell cheap phones to foreign emerging markets, such as India, might become “an issue”, Gartner smartphone specialist Annette Zimmermann said.

“Apple has not grown in any emerging markets because it don’t have a low-end device,” she explained. “I don’t see it wanting to take that seriously and that might become an issue”.

Apple’s Korean rival Samsung is also due to report results this week. Set alongside Apple’s, they will provide a glimpse into who is winning the smartphone war.

Investors will be eager to learn whether Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9, which was launched in February, has pipped the iPhone X to the post or whether the rumours that shoppers are suffering ‘smartphone fatigue’ are true.

Once a spectacular source of rising profits, the smartphone market has stagnated recently – but nevertheless remains enormously valuable.

Last year, shoppers snapped up 1.48 billion of the gadgets, spending $382bn, according to figures from analysts CCS.

However, smartphones have graduated to the ‘mature category’ of consumer electronics, with the pace of innovation more incremental than a few years ago.

Insatiable desire among consumers to swap their phone every year appears to have cooled. Western consumers are savvier, reading spec lists and armed with comparison websites to help them shop around.

Smartphone sales declined for the first time in 2017, according to Gartner, suggesting that the consumer frenzy has now hit a peak.

As sales stagnate, major players have turned to selling premium gadgets at a higher price tag. Apple’s plan to sell fewer units – but at a premium price – may pay off in the short term, but as smartphone growth slows it may regret its decision not to chase new consumers in emerging markets.

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Irish students scoop major award for super-efficient car that can drive from Galway to Dublin for less than 15c

A team of engineering students from NUI Galway have scooped a major European award for a super-efficient vehicle.

They took first place for technical innovation at Europe’s prestigious Shell Eco-marathon Europe competition.

The Galway energy-efficient car (Geec, left) is said to be Ireland’s ‘greenest’ with a claimed range of 350km on just one unit, or kilowatt-hour (kWh), of electricity.

That, they say, means a drive from Galway to Dublin would cost less than 15c worth of electricity. Put another way, it’s calculated as the equivalent of 10,000mpg (diesel).

University president Professor Ciarán ó hÓgartaigh said the students had brought talent and ingenuity to bear on one of the most important challenges of our time – energy-efficient transportation.

A total of 149 top European engineering schools built cars and sent teams to the Shell Eco-marathon Europe in London. In all, more than 2,000 students, from Morocco to Siberia, took part. The award recognises the single best innovation on any car across all competition categories.

It is claimed to be the world’s toughest test for ultra-efficient vehicles. Teams battle in a 15km race where efficiency, not speed, is all that matters.

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Ryanair warns of potential job cuts for up to 300 Dublin-based employees

Ryanair has today written to over 300 employees warning them that their services may not be required from October 28.

The protective notice to staff has been issued after the board took the decision to cut its Dublin-based fleet by 20pc for the winter.

Over 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew employees will be affected by Ryanair’s decision to cut its Dublin fleet to 24 from 30 for the winter period.

The low-fares airline said that the decision had been driven by the rapid growth of its Polish charter airline, allied to a down turn in forward bookings and airfares in Ireland, which it said was “partly as a result of recent rolling strikes by Irish pilots.”

The airline said that the strikes had resulted in consumer confidence in the reliability of its Irish flight schedules being disturbed.

Ryanair expects few route closures from Dublin during the winter, although some routes may suffer frequency reductions.

“We regret these base aircraft reductions at Dublin for winter 2018, but the board has decided to allocate more aircraft to those markets where we are enjoying strong growth, and this will result in some aircraft reductions and job cuts in country markets where business has weakened, or forward bookings are being damaged by rolling strikes by Irish pilots,” Peter Bellew, COO of Ryanair, said.

Earlier this week the airline reported profits after tax fell by 20pc year-on-year to €319m in the three months to 30 June.

Higher fuel and staff costs off-set the airline’s increase in revenue, which grew 9pc to €2bn, Ryanair said in a trading update on Monday.

The earlier timing of Easter also led to a 4pc decline in average fares, the airline said.

Ryanair experienced passenger growth of 7pc year-on-year during the period, with the group carrying 37.6 million passengers in the three months.

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Wednesday 25 July 2018 Housing crisis deepens and raises pressure on Murphy

THE number of people living in emergency accommodation has hit another record high – but campaigners say the figures don’t take account of the “hidden homeless”.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is under renewed pressure after a series of reports showed the housing crisis continues to worsen.

According to the Department of Housing, 9,872 people were in emergency accommodation during the week of June 18-24. This is an increase of 26 compared with the previous month.

Another study revealed that almost half of local authorities did not complete construction of any new social houses in the first three months of this year.

However, Mr Murphy insisted the latest set of figures show a “stabilisation in terms of the number of people in emergency accommodation”.

“The reason that is important is because it tells us that some of our methods are working, but we have to do more and create sustainable paths for people out of emergency accommodation,” he said.

In relation to the construction figures, the minister pointed to a “roughly 60pc increase in delivery of new builds” compared with 2017.

“Not every local authority area saw completions in the first quarter but every local authority area has sites under construction.

“What’s also encouraging about this is that the first quarter is typically the lowest quarter of activity in the year because our building programme is managed towards an uptake in delivery as we move towards the end of the year. We see this when we look back at 2016 and 2017. This is on track to happen in 2018 also,” Mr Murphy said.

Political opponents said the Government’s ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ plan was failing to make the necessary impact.

Niamh Randall, spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said it is deeply troubling and frustrating to see the homeless figures increase again.

“Living in emergency accommodation is traumatic, stressful and filled with uncertainty.

“At the heart of this is the lack of secure, affordable housing. Without an accessible private rental sector or social housing, people have nowhere to go if they cannot afford to rent,” she said.

“They are trapped and it is so unfair because there is no way out.

“These figures don’t include rough sleepers or those in squats, women and children in refuges, those in direct provision or people who are ‘hidden homeless’ – those staying with family or friends as they have nowhere else to go.”

Ms Randall also raised concerns about suggestions the minister may move to publishing updates quarterly rather than every month.

Mr Murphy said yesterday that monthly reports do not tell enough “about the trends, or the people behind the trends”.

But Ms Randall said this would be wrong “in the midst of the greatest housing and homelessness crisis that we have known”

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US stock markets well-positioned to weather any trade war storms

Trade war fears have rattled US markets this year – but despite these worries, they have continued to post gains.

The S&P 500, the US’s main benchmark index, and the Nasdaq index of leading technology shares, retreated from their bull run following President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports in May, but investors soon shrugged off the announcement.

The US is imposing tariffs of 25pc on steel from the EU, Canada and Mexico, and 10pc on aluminium. Meanwhile, other trading partners, including Brazil, South Korea and Australia, will face quotas on metal imports.

The muted stock market reaction, according to some commentators, may be due to the proposals not being considered to have a large enough impact to stall US economic growth. May’s jobs report topped expectations, providing a welcome boost to the economic outlook. However, the impact of rising trade tensions has yet to fully filter through, with the outcome depending on how trade partners respond, and whether there may be larger trade battles ahead.

Canada is among those that have announced retaliatory measures, with tariffs on US steel and aluminium. Meanwhile, other geopolitical issues continue in the background that could affect the US, such as strained US-Iran relations.

Yet Trump’s pro-growth stance has continued to boost financial markets, despite some risk factors that threatened to take the steam out of the stock market bull run.

It’s not only trade wars which could affect markets. The US Federal Reserve voted on June 13 to raise US interest rates by 0.25pc – the second increase in rates this year.

Further increases could affect market movements, with higher rates typically having a negative effect on technology and consumer discretionary stocks, as consumers often find themselves with reduced disposal income once borrowing costs increase.

Despite the above, the US remains the world’s largest economy and is in a strong position to weather potential storms, such as a trade war.

US stock markets have soared over recent years, comfortably beating the returns available in the global stock markets elsewhere.

The passing of the Republican Party tax reform legislation has helped push US stocks higher over recent months, with cuts going to the wealthy and business owners, to encourage more investment. In some senses, the backdrop looks more conducive for American stocks now than at any other time in this economic cycle – the Republican tax cuts, alongside the bipartisan spending agreement, represent a substantial dollop of fiscal stimulus to an economy that is already doing pretty nicely. Both, particularly the former, will materially lift corporate earnings for the next two years.

However, the announcement of the tariffs imposed on some imports could shrink some of the savings from the cuts and inject some uncertainty into the stock market, alongside raising concerns about inflation. Analysts generally agree that tariffs are negative for the economy and will impact business confidence.

Yet fundamentals for the US economy remain strong, despite slightly slower growth in the first three months of 2018, at 2.2pc, compared to the 2.3pc that was estimated. Consumers continue to spend, and unemployment remains low.

The US stock market has not only benefited from improving global growth and corporate profits, but also from a rising oil price, and a slide in the value of the dollar. A weak dollar benefits multinational companies that receive their earnings overseas, boosting profits when they are converted back into dollars. The reverse holds true, when the dollar strengthens.

Of course, no-one can predict with any certainty which way the US stock market will move next, but the economic fundamentals appear positive for investors who are seeking to add an investment in the US to a diversified investment portfolio.

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Dublin-listed venture capital firm invests £7m in surgical guidance company

Dublin and London listed Draper Esprit has invested £7m (€7.8m) in Endomag, a surgical guidance company that pioneers magnetic sensing equipment, which targets and removes cancer.

Since April this year Draper Esprit has invested £29m across eight transactions, and a further £7m from its enterprise investor scheme (EIS) and venture capital trust (VCT) funds, the company said in a statement ahead of its AGM today.

This includes a £9.9m investment in Aircall, a provider of cloud-based call centre software in April, a £7.4m investment in May in fintech business Revolut, and the £3.7m investment in Finnish microsatellite manufacturer ICEYE, which was completed in May.

“We finished the year ended 31 March 2018 in a strong position and have maintained this positive momentum over the first four months of the new financial year,” Karen Slatford, chairman of Draper Esprit, said.

Since April the company has committed a further £8m to five new fund of fund vehicles, taking the total committed to date to £18m across nine funds.

“Doing so increases our opportunity to source the best deals from across Europe, providing us with oversight and access to seed stage companies for when they need to grow,” Ms Slatford said.

“We have also continued to implement a strategy of scaling‐up and increasing our stakes in existing portfolio companies.”

In May Draper Esprit raised £115m via a placing and subscription. In addition, a further £61m was raised from across Draper Esprit’s EIS, VCT and secondary funds.

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Monday 23 July 2018 Cybersecurity is so important to Ireland due to multinational population

Cybersecurity should be top of the agenda for all companies, and Ireland needs to be especially vigilant because so many multinationals have their headquarters here, according to Mikko Hypponen, the keynote speaker at Dublin Information Sec 2018.

Hypponen is an international expert on computer security and privacy issues and is credited with tracking down the authors of the very first PC virus. He is chief research officer at F-Secure.

Dublin Information Sec 2018, Ireland’s cybersecurity conference, takes place at the RDS on October 15 for the third year running.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Hypponen highlighted Ireland’s growing role as a European headquarters for multinationals and the importance of vigilance as a result.

“Cybersecurity is especially important in Ireland, as so many global technology companies have their European operations based there,” he told the Sunday Independent.

“Today, every company is a software company.”

He added that organisations need to focus on detecting breaches and responding to them, not just keeping attackers out of networks.

“Today, cybersecurity is more important than ever. It should be a permanent topic on the board meeting agendas of any large companies,” he said.

“How many of the Fortune 500 companies are hacked right now? Well, 500,” he added.

Themes that will be addressed at the conference range from regulation, including a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) health check, to the impact of Brexit as well as ways to improve your organisation’s security health, from cloud to Saas, and the emerging mass security problems as well as the risks and the threats to your business.

According to the latest ‘Global CEO Outlook’ from international consulting firm KPMG, US chief executives, with whom digital agendas rank high, list cybersecurity as the biggest risk when it comes to business growth.

The international survey also showed that chief executives are concerned by the risks posed by disruptive technology.

Closer to home, a recent report from PwC on economic crime and fraud showed more than 10pc of Irish businesses that have been hit by cyber criminals lost more than €4m each in the past two years as a result of the attacks.

It found half of Irish companies had been victims of economic crime within the past two years – up from 34pc in 2016 and 26pc in 2010.

The findings are part of a global PwC survey that included 7,200 participants in 123 countries. In Ireland, 77 firms took part and PwC said the respondents represented all key industries and sectors.

The survey revealed cyber crime was the top economic crime here, having overtaken asset misappropriation for the first time.

Phishing – where fraudulent emails are used to lure unsuspecting recipients into revealing data, such as bank or credit card details, from which money is then stolen – was the most prominent technique for targeted cyber attacks (66pc of cases), followed by malware in 56pc of cases.

The conference will also address the recently introduced GDPR, the EU legal framework that establishes guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals in member states.

The deadline for compliance was May 25 and while it is early days in terms of how businesses are adapting to the new rules, research commissioned by cloud aggregator and IT distributor MicroWarehouse showed that the most common action taken by firms post the GDPR is amendments to data breach procedures where one third of respondents to the survey had made this move.

It also showed that larger firms spent more money and resources on ensuring their firms were GDPR compliant.

And, worryingly, despite growing concerns internationally against the backdrop of increasing numbers of state-sponsored attacks, cybersecurity is not high on the agenda of Irish boardrooms or management.

According to the MicroWarehouse survey, 35pc of firms said that the issue is never discussed at management level, while only 13pc said it was one of the main priorities for their organisation.

As cyber, data and security threats become more sophisticated, Dublin Information Sec 2018 is the ideal forum to future-proof your business.

Other speakers at Dublin Information Sec 2018 include Edward Burke, assistant professor in international relations at the University of Nottingham; Dr Ciaran Mc Mahon, director of the Institute of Cyber Security and academic psychologist; Maria Farrell, writer and tech policy consultant; Rahim Jina, co-founder Edgescan; Brian Honan, chief executive at BH Consulting; Michael Gubbins, Garda head of cybersecurity; James Chappell, co-founder Digital Shadows; Bill Buchanan, professor at Edinburgh Napier University, and Adrian Weckler, technology editor with Independent News & Media.

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Dublin pips Paris to become dearest city in Eurozone

Dublin is now the costliest city in the Eurozone to live in for expats, having overtaken Paris, according to a new survey.

The capital is also ranked 32 among the world’s most expensive cities.

It shot up the league table from number 66, primarily as a result of the strength of the euro compared to the dollar.

But the soaring cost of rental accommodation is also a major factor that has fuelled Dublin’s meteoric rise on the table, according to the survey by global consultants Mercer.

“The survey identifies cost pressures on expatriate rental accommodation in Dublin as the key driver of this and this in turn reflects the growth of the economy with continuing high levels of foreign direct investment,” said Noel O’Connor, a senior consultant at Mercer.

The survey uses New York City as its base for comparisons, and 375 cities around the world were assessed using items such as costs for accommodation, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

Two European cities are among the world’s 10 most expensive for expats – Zurich at number three and Bern in tenth place. Geneva fell four places to number 11 due to a decline in the city’s housing market.

Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world for expats, according to the survey.

Globally, it’s followed by Asian cities including Tokyo at number two, Singapore at number four, Seoul in fifth place, Shanghai in seventh and Beijing ranking ninth.

“Stronger Chinese monetary regulation, a flourishing economy and a push to have the Chinese yuan as an international currency pushed Chinese cities up in the ranking,” said Yvonne Traber, global mobility product solutions leader at Mercer.

London is ranked number 19 on the list, with Frankfurt at 68 and Berlin at 71. Belfast is ranked 152, up 18 places.

The cost of accommodation in Ireland, and particularly around cities including Dublin, is becoming a significant concern in terms of its potential impact on foreign direct investment into the country.

A recent survey by Ernst & Young showed that Ireland has fallen out of the top 10 most attractive destinations in Europe for foreign direct investment.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said last week that the decline in Ireland’s ranking was “disappointing”, but insisted that Ireland remains a competitive country.

“The government is nevertheless conscious of our need to remain as competitive as possible,” she added.

“We cannot become complacent in relation to our hard-won gains of recent years.”

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