Ireland is Third from the Top in Think-Tank Economy Table

Worth A Look, Think Tanks, Frontier Centre

THE Irish economy has been ranked as the third freest in the world in an international study by a major US think-tank, the Heritage Foundation. Ireland jumped two places in 2005, behind Hong Kong and Singapore, having steadily climbed up through the rankings in previous years.

THE number of people employed by foreign multinationals in Ireland increased by over 4,000 last year, allowing IDA Ireland to claim 2005 as its best year since 2000.

CRH is on course to turn in full-year pre-tax profits in excess of €1.25bn when it reports for 2005 on March 7 next. This follows another strong trading performance in 2005 and will mark a record showing by the world’s fourth-largest building materials group.

THE British operation of fashion chain Kookai became the latest casualty on the UK high street this week after it formally declared bankruptcy and appointed accountancy firm Deloitte as administrators to seek a buyer.

SHARES in Irish resource company Pan Andean plunged 11.4pc during the week after the minnow announced that its latest exploration well drilled in Texas has been a failure. This followed another failure just before Christmas.

NEWLY-released figures show that cargo traffic passing through Dublin Airport has still not recovered from the disruption wrought by the November 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

MOST pension funds received an overdue boost in 2005 on the back of buoyant European stock markets, with the average managed fund up 21pc over the past year, according to the latest figures.

THE number of company liquidations fell to a new all-time low of 313 last year as the booming economy kept companies buoyed up.

RIGHT Price Tiles, the Cork-based tile chain, has bought Tiles R Us in Britain, in its first foray across the Irish Sea. The value of the deal was not disclosed but Tiles R Us went into administration last month with debts of stg£15m.

GROWING optimism about the economic outlook drove consumer confidence for December to its highest level since June last year, according to the ESRI/IIB Consumer Sentiment Index.

BARRY’S, the Cork tea family, the family behind motor distributors Gowan Group, and Irish venture capitalists Act and Delta Partners are among those putting €14m into Ireland’s new TV station Channel 6.

THE Government should float a majority stake in Aer Lingus in a process which would value the airline at €1bn, according to UBS and AIB Capital Markets, which are advising the Government on the airline’s privatisation. UBS suggests it should take place in six months’ time and be used to raise a further €400m to help fund the airline’s €2bn expansion plan.

ESB workers transferring to grid operator Eirgrid are to be offered €40,000 gross in compensation, which should leave each worker with a net pay-out of between €20,000 and €25,000, it has been learned. The boards of the ESB and Eirgrid are set to discuss the deal later this month. Negotiations on the transfer have been going on for four years. Some 100 ESB workers are affected by the move.

BUILDING materials group Kingspan has achieved strong revenue growth in 2005 following a strong first-half, the company said in a trading statement.

Volume growth has been satisfactory and raw material prices and supply have stabilised. Satisfactory operating margins have been maintained in the period.

Operating profit and earnings growth for the year will both be significantly ahead of 2004 and in line with expectations, Kingspan said.