Tag Archives: Denis O’Brien

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Denis O’Brien appeared on CNBC earlier this afternoon to discuss the cancellation of the public share offering by his telecom company Digicel.

It’s all good.

Denis O’Brien: “Our board made the right decision last night. We were very, very happy with the decision, woke up this morning, we’re very happy that we pulled the IPO. And we’ll come back to the market in time when the market conditions are right for our business.”

CNBC: “Denis, before we go on and discuss the market conditions, to try and keep everybody on board, in simple terms what do you do? What does your business do?”

O’Brien: “We’ve a mobile phone and fixe lined business and cable TV and also a digital business in the Caribbean and also Central America and the Pacific islands as well. We operate in 31 countries. We’ve about $2.8billion of revenue and we make approximately $1.2billion of EBITDA.”

CNBC: “So, just talk me through the process. That A) an IPO, the board says let’s IPO, you employ bankers and presumably you start a roadshow…”

O’Brien: “Yeah.”

CNBC: “…and then you. Just give us some colour, if you would, on what went on during that process.”

O’Brien: “Well we started the process six months ago, led by our chief executive Colm Delves, we’d a small team, then the team widened. And you know we hit the road about two and a half weeks. It was quite volatile, particularly in the emerging markets and, of course, the discount people are looking for in IPO are very, is very high, it’s widened. And, you know, we’re not backed by private equity. It’s all owned by myself and my colleagues. So we didn’t need to do an IPO at any time so. It was opportunistic from our point of view and we’ll come back, we don’t need any funding at the moment. It’s a great feeling, not to need any funding.

CNBC: “Since you are a private company, can you give us an idea of the magnitude of the figures. What you were after? What they told you, you’d probably price at?”

O’Brien: “Yeah well there are comparables. Obviously we’re comped against a basket of other companies but they decline by half a turn of EBIDTA during the roadshow, so we didn’t hit our price target, so we decided well, if we don’t hit our price target, we’re not going to sell our shares. Why would you sell your front garden if when you know it’s worth a lot of money? And why would you sell it at a discount?”

CNBC 2: “I also understand you’ve been watching emerging markets, is that one of the reasons you’re concerned about this current environment?”

O’Brien: “Well you know emerging markets is a bit choppy at the moment. A lot of outflow from fund managers, a lot of caution, a little bit of jittery, you know, although this morning it’s a bit better but, over the last few weeks, you know, we’ve seen a lot of outflows and people are just a little bit concerned about the future. You know, in our circumstances, when you don’t have to do an IPO, and you’re not hitting your price target, you just defer or move it out a year.”

CNBC: “So that’s what I was going to ask you: when do you think the time will be right? What did the bankers say to you about when next the markets won’t be volatile and, presumably, will be in a rising environment?”

O’Brien: “Well, I mean it’s very difficult to get bankers to tell you, you know, what the future holds cause nobody really knows. But I think the markets will settle over the next three to six months with oil recovering. So, you know, I actually think that the market will be fine then and there won’t be as big a discount and, you know, people will be hitting their IPO ranges.”

CNBC 3: “You are losing money. I mean you have adequate access to capital, for what you need from other capital markets, including the debt markets?”

O’Brien: “Well you know, we operate in free cash-flow of $840million on $1.2billion of EBITDA so, you know, we’ve no maturities until 2021 of any consequence. So we’ve funded our balance sheet of very cheap prices in the bond market in the last 12 months so we’re very comfortable, we’re generating a huge amount of cash. We can do our MNA strategy and really develop our business so, you know, alone, we’ve spent $1.5billion on CAPEX, building fiber to the home, fibre business networks across all our markets.”

Watch here


Earlier: Benched


Digicel’s balance sheet is very weak, Francis Gaskins, president of research firm IPO Desktop, said. “It’s a big company that has been losing money since it started,” Gaskins said. “They’ve been growing subscribers at 2 percent a year.”
Digicel reported a loss of $157.6 million on revenue of $2.79 billion for the year ended March 31, compared with a profit of $43.5 million on revenue of $2.75 billion a year earlier.
“”Their revenue is flat, they are losing money, the company is not growing – it would not be seen as the most attractive of investments,” said Jay Ritter, professor of finance, University of Florida.

Oh the humanity.

3-Caribbean telecom company Digicel hangs up on IPO (Reuters)

Denis O’Brien pulls potential $2bn Digicel flotation (IrishTimes)


STNE/DTPH   13-9-07 Irish Entrepreuner Denis O'Brien. City Profile Pictures by Philip Hollis for The Sunday Telegraph

Denis O’Brien

And sure why wouldn’t it be?

Gavin Sherian and Tom Lyons, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, reported:

“A company [Another 9 or A9 Business Recovery Services] backed by billionaire Denis O’Brien is being paid substantial sums of money to protect Irish Water’s website from “severe” cyber attacks, with six serious incidents identified in just five months alone.”

“…The company is chaired by Leslie Buckley, an O’Brien associate, who is the chairman of Independent News & Media. Shareholders in the company are Baycliffe, an Isle of Man investment company used by O’Brien, and Steve O’Brien, a businessman.”

“The full cost to the State of services provided by the company – including hourly rates charged by security engineers – has been redacted by Irish Water citing confidentiality reasons. The documents state the “yearly charge” for “hosting and security charges” is €1.2 million to Ervia over five years. It does not appear to include other potential charges.”

“…The form of cyber attack that Another 9 is defending Irish Water against is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack…”

“…Another 9 lists O’Brien’s company Digicel as well as AIB, Volkswagen and Pioneer Investments as among its clients. The company’s website describes O’Brien as “shareholder” and as “one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs”.”

There you go now.

O’Brien-backed company battles Irish Water hackers (The Sunday Business Post)


A RoanKabin show home at the Modular Homes Display, East Wall Fire station, Dublin

Call for A Revolution in Ireland writes:

As you are aware, we have a housing crisis, caused by FG-Labour. Today they were showing off some “modular home“, basically prefabs [in Dublin yesterday]. These will solve the crisis, or so they tell us. These units cost around €100,000 each.

Well, guess who makes them? Denis O’Brien does. [Among the] companies building them is Roankabin, a division of SiteServ (the company installing water meters)….


Call For A Revolution In Ireland (Facebook)

Thanks Marina O’Reilly


From top: yesterday’s Sunday Times,  William Fry logo.

The law firm William Fry, which is representing the businessman Denis O’Brien in a case against the state, is set to be appointed as legal adviser to the government established commission of investigation into transactions by IBRC, including deals with O’Brien. Law firms that were unsuccessful in tendering for the contract to advise the inquiry were told last week that William Fry was the winning bidder. William Fry declined to comment on the contract or on potential conflicts of interest with its work for O’Brien.””The law firm is acting for the media tycoon in a case launched in June against the Dail committee of procedure and privileges, which O’Brien claims breached his constitutional rights.”

“William Fry has a long-standing relationship with O’Brien, and represented him in a recent case against RTÉ as well as in previous proceedings against the Revenue Commissioners. The law firm also previously carried out an investigation into potential conflicts of interest arising from the wind-down of the wealth management division of IBRC, which will be among the issues probed by the commission of investigation.”

Gavin Daly, in yesterday’s Sunday Times

Readers may wish to note an article, headlined Boom For Irish Law Firms, from the weekly British legal magazine, The Lawyer on May 28, 1996.

It noted:

“The influx of telecommunications companies into Ireland has led to the development of telecoms practices in some firms. Dublin firm William Fry was involved in the recent licensing of the second GSM mobile phone system where the Irish-Norwegian consortium Esat Digifone was awarded the licence.”

Good times.

Previously: Morrissey and Mar’


From top: Denis O’Brien, Dr Julien Mercille


Why does Denis O’Brien sue everyone?

Because he can.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

The number of legal actions Denis O’Brien has launched against free speech over the last several months is dizzying. Let’s summarize them briefly and look at the related problems of media concentration and Ireland’s defamation laws.

1. In May, O’Brien obtained a legal order to prevent RTÉ from reporting on the state-owned bank IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish) and Siteserv. He did not want his banking affairs to be discussed in public. RTÉ abdicated and postponed airing the report.

2. A few days later, Catherine Murphy TD claimed in the Dáil that IBRC had apparently made loans to O’Brien on favourable terms. But he asserted that no media outlet could report on her declarations because he had a court judgment saying so. Almost [but not all; Broadsheet, The Sunday Times and Village magazine] the whole national media abdicated and waited to publish the statements.

3. O’Brien then sued the parliament itself and the State for allowing Pearse Doherty TD and Catherine Murphy TD to make claims about his affairs with IBRC.

4. O’Brien then sued the Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) because it ruled that Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when she made claims about him.

5. Then, last week, O’Brien’s lawyers ordered the satirical news website Waterford Whispers News to take down an article about himself entitled “Denis O’Brien Receives 20 Year Jail Sentence For Mobile Phone Licence Bribe in Parallel Universe”.

6. Broadsheet immediately reproduced the article, and almost as immediately got a similar order to take it down. But it left the piece online.

7. O’Brien’s lawyers then went after Broadsheet’s internet provider, asking to take the article down. As I write these lines, the case is pending.

In short, the whole drama is so exciting that nobody needs to watch soaps and detective stories anymore: it’s all happening in real life.

Two enabling factors for the string of legal actions above are the concentration of media ownership and defamation laws.

Ireland’s mass media landscape is among the most concentrated in developed countries. Notably, we don’t have a single left-of-centre outlet. The Guardian has no equivalent here. The information we receive is thus coming from a quite narrow centre to right-wing spectrum. Sure, there are exceptions and some journalists produce excellent critical progressive stories, but unfortunately, they remain exceptions.

This partly explains why the mainstream media reaction to the above explicit attacks on freedom of speech has been relatively muted. By this I mean that one would have expected a more forceful defense of the right of journalists to investigate and report on matters of great public interest.

It doesn’t help that Denis O’Brien controls a large chunk of our national media. His Independent News & Media (INM) accounts for 40% of all newspaper sales in the country and includes the largest weekly and Sunday broadsheets, the Independent and Sunday Independent. His Communicorp group includes Today FM, Spin, 98FM and Newstalk, the country’s largest supplier of radio news.

But the government has failed to reduce media concentration and increase diversity. In June, Minister Alex White (Labour) issued some “Guidelines” that pretend to address that, but as observers quickly pointed out, they don’t.

The National Union of Journalists described the policy as “an abject failure of the government to tackle powerful media interests in Ireland”. Indeed, “Successive governments have allowed a small group of powerful people to gain control of the media” and the new Guidelines are “incapable of undoing that damage”. All we witness is “the transfer of power from one baron to another in the face of appalling political cowardice”.

The Irish Examiner, in a strongly worded statement, agreed with those criticisms and noted that ironically, the Guidelines had been released in the wake of the political storm that arose when Denis O’Brien prevented the national media from publishing Catherine Murphy’s statements against him. Such context could have provided at least a pretext for the minister to do something that had some bite, but the strategy has remained toothless.

To increase media diversity, progressive alternative media should thus be strongly supported. (And no, that doesn’t mean Facebook or Twitter).

Another issue is to reform Ireland’s defamation laws. In the cases above, such laws govern the balance between the right of the media to make claims about individuals like Denis O’Brien that could end up damaging his reputation (if, say, his banking affairs are exposed) vs. the right of Denis O’Brien to protect his reputation and restrict public debate about him.

The problem is that Ireland’s defamation laws are some of the most plaintiff-friendly in Europe: in other words, they really benefit the likes of Denis O’Brien when the media says something critical about him. In other countries where the value of free speech is more important, like the United States, it is the opposite situation: the law makes it difficult for people like Denis O’Brien to sue the media and win and it is thus easier to challenge powerful people.

The problem with Ireland’s laws is that they benefit the wealthy. That’s because launching a legal action against the media is often costly because lawyers need to be hired and cases can last for a long time. Therefore, it’s unlikely that an ordinary person will take the risk of launching and getting involved in convoluted legal processes.

And so we go back to the government’s role again, which has upheld defamation laws. It should reform them to protect freedom of speech, which is essential in a democracy.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. His new book, Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland (Palgrave) is out. Follow him on twitter:  @JulienMercille

Previously: Everyone Must Get Sued


This morning.

Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Broadway Cafe and Gift Shop (Facebook)

Thanks Angrarb



‘Citizen’ O’Brien’s reply this morning  to an Irish Times editorial published on August 5 entitled “In defence of dáil privilege”.

Deliberate act of destruction?

Irish Times letters

Last night: Everyone Must Get Sued



This morning.

Tralee-Mallow train.

King Dumb writes:

Better not take this seat, for fear of the lawyers showing up…



This afternoon.

Rathmines, Dublin 6.


Thanks Dara Squiggles