Zara’s billionaire founder in talks to enter Irish property market

Seen & Heard: Google Ireland still hiring; business failures tipped to rise; Aer Lingus unions to lodge pay claim; Pepper Finance increases mortgage rates; Kula plans first Dublin hotel

Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega, who founded Zara-owning retail empire Inditex, is preparing to enter the Irish property market through the purchase of Johnny Ronan’s Fibonacci Square, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Pontegadea, a family office that invests on behalf of Ortega, is in advanced discussions to buy the Dublin office development for €550 million, the newspaper said, citing a report on property website React News.

Meta, the company previously known as Facebook, has agreed to lease Fibonacci Square, a redevelopment of the AIB Bankcentre complex in Ballsbridge, for an initial rent of €22 million.

Ortega has a fortune of about $42 billion (€43 billion), according to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the 25th-richest person in the world.


Google still committed to its Dublin hub

Google will be “slowing hiring, but not stopping”, according to Google Ireland head Adaire Fox-Martin. In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Ms Fox-Martin, who took up her role in February, said the Alphabet-owned tech giant was “being more circumspect” about growing employee numbers, but denied that a hiring freeze had been imposed in response to either the slump in tech stock values, recession fears or the opening of a new UK headquarters in London.

Ms Fox-Martin, who also leads Google’s cloud operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Google remained as committed as ever to its Dublin hub, where it employs 9,000 people. “I think we can continue to evolve Dublin as a site.”

More business failures expected

A long-anticipated wave of corporate insolvencies is now materialising across the Irish economy, with insolvency practitioners bracing for a surge in business failures over the coming months amid soaring energy costs, reported the Business Post.

Wider inflation, the withdrawal of pandemic supports, rising interest rates and debt repayments are also likely to force a higher rate of unviable firms out of business.

David Van Dessel, a partner at Deloitte’s restructuring business, told the newspaper that he expected the number of corporate insolvencies would “quickly surpass” the 568 recorded in 2019. Up to 800 insolvencies could be recorded this year, he said.

Aer Lingus pay claim

Trade unions at Aer Lingus have agreed to make a joint pay claim with the airline in the hope of emulating pay rises received by staff at sister airline British Airways, the Sunday Independent has reported.

A meeting of trade unions agreed last week that “a centralised pay claim would be lodged with Aer Lingus seeking a significant pay increase for our members”, a memo sent to ground staff by trade union Siptu said.

Both Aer Lingus and BA are part of International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG). About 16,000 BA ground staff received pay increases of about 13 per cent last month.

Pepper hikes variable mortgage rate

Mortgage service provider Pepper Finance is increasing the interest rate on its standard variable loans by 1.25 percentage points from the end of next month, the Sunday Times reported.

The rise will bring the average rate on standard variable mortgages serviced by Pepper to close to 5.45 per cent. The company services a total of 60,000 mortgages owned by investment funds such as CarVal, Goldman Sachs and Pimco.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has raised its key lending rate twice of late, by a total of 1.25 percentage points, but some Irish lenders have yet to increase their standard variable rates in response.

British hotel group Kula to open first Dublin hotel

UK hotel group Kula will open its first location in Ireland after reaching an agreement to manage a new site in Dublin city centre acquired by international real estate investment firm Gold Tree Group, the Business Post said.

Kula said its Dublin hotel, located on the corner of Little Britain Street and Little Green Street in Dublin 7, will open in 2024.

The company has a portfolio of 16 hotels providing accommodation for short trips and months-long visits to a city, the latter via serviced apartments. The Dublin site will continue to be owned by Gold Tree, which bought it from food wholesaler and distributor Sam Dennigan & Company.