Tag Archives: Denis O’Brien

Here’s proof that 2014 was a landmark year in Ireland – China Relations

GREAT WALL OF CHINA BECOMES THE ‘GREEN WALL OF CHINA’ AS IT

The Green Wall of China

In terms of Ireland – China political and trade relations 2014 was a pivotal year. The following birds-eye view draws attention to the main breakthroughs as well as offering a hunch or two regarding how the kinship can be expected to develop into 2015.

Part 1: 2014 – The year that was

Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be

Open Sesame

– Export opportunities

– Strategic sourcing

– Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Accurate Group – China Market Makers

Part 1: 2014 -The year that was

Accurate China Insight China Investment Corporation 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations– The year had barely commenced when China Investment Corp (CIC) and The National Pension Reserve Fund announced an investment of US$100 million in The China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund which is turn will invest in fast-growing Irish start-up technology companies trying to expand into China.

– Another subtle telltale sign of the improving relationship was the Chinese Embassy in Dublin‘s anticipation of ” a need for increased facilities to carry out embassy, consular and state business“, as noted in the Irish Independent last February. It was around this time the Irish Government announced its intention to open a Consulate in Hong Kong.

– The first big dairy export deal of the year was won by Northern Ireland‘s Dale Farm – whey protein, a deal which effectively pushed its annual exports to China up to £20 million a year.

Chinese leasing company Bank of Communications Financial Leasing (JY Aviation) became the third Chinese aircraft leasing company to set up its European headquarters in Dublin..

WrightBus hits the streets of Hong Kong

WrightBus hits the streets of Hong Kong

– In March, Northern Ireland bus-maker Wrightbus of Ballymena won orders for more than 50 new buses in Hong Kong.

– While the photograph of President Higgins of Ireland being welcomed to China by President Xi Jinping in December 2014 represents the highest form of State engagement in diplomatic protocol, perhaps the most iconic image of the Ireland – China relationship in 2014 was the greening of China’s most important cultural icon, the Great Wall to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

– Meanwhile, the Bank of Ireland became the first bank in Ireland to offer business customers the facility to make payments in Chinese Yuan / RMB.

– H.E. Xu Jianguo was appointed Chinese ambassador to Ireland. Tellingly, his previous posting was as Chinese ambassador to New Zealand, the main conduit for dairy product imports into China (courtesy of a generous free trade agreement).

– However, the year wasn’t all about agriculture. Tencent, games industry giant and China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, chose Ireland’s Havok to deliver for its Iron Knight game dynamic battlefields, enhanced graphics, efficient character AI, more realistic animations and detailed destruction effects to offer players the most authentic fighting action possible. All-in-all, a huge milestone for Havok, the premier provider of interactive software and services for digital media creators in the games and entertainment industries.

Havok secured a landmark deal with Tencent

Havok secured a landmark deal with Tencent

– In May 30 Irish diary companies had products approved for export to China following stringent audits by Chinese authorities, a significant milestone for Ireland’s dairy industry.

– Also in May, then Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar leading a trade mission to China commented: “I think everyone accepts that sooner or later there will be direct flights between Ireland and China, most likely Dublin and Beijing...”

– …while a leading tourism survey in China observed that 62% of Chinese travellers were reasonably familiar with Ireland.

– Huawei Technologies, the leading Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services giant announced the establishment of a new R&D centre in Athlone.

Huawei opened an R&D centre in Athlone

Huawei opened an R&D centre in Athlone

– ChinaHR, the fast growing Asia-focused recruitment company owned by Leslie Buckley and Denis O’Brien, which employs 2,600 staff in 26 cities across China, was said to be mulling over plans to float in Hong Kong. There was also muted talk (but little substance) of a potential listing in Hong Kong by PCH International, which sells product development and supply chain management services – and is widely considered Ireland’s biggest exporter in China.

– On a serious note the Chinese sheep shearing team arrived in Ireland to compete for the first time in the World Sheep Shearing Championships. On a less serious note, Irish-American comedian Des Bishop wowed Chinese television audiences… in Chinese!

– H.E. Xu Jianguo, the new Chinese ambassador to Ireland, undertook a well-publicised pilgrimage to what Chinese officials consider to be Ireland’s Mecca – the Shannon Free Zone, following in the footsteps of Jiang Zemin’s 1980 trip to study the Shannon Free Zone model, which has since been adopted across China in the development of its hugely successful special economic zones.

– In June, Dublin Airport announced its intention to secure a direct air-link to China by mid-2016.

Accurate China Insight Unionpay 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations– June also saw a boost to Irish businesses as AIB Merchant Services enabled acceptance of the Chinese card UnionPay.

– During the same month a new visa to let Chinese tourists travel freely between Ireland and the UK was announced, a significant milestone for Irish tourism.

– Mr. Liu Yunshan, a leading member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, was the most senior Chinese official to visit Ireland in 2014. He was accompanied by four ministers in a delegation of fifty-one officials. Since 2011 nearly thirty Chinese Ministers or Vice-Ministers have visited Ireland. Clearly, the Chinese leadership considers a strengthening of the ties between the two nations to be of benefit for China.

– In October it was announced that China is to open a consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

– On the education front, Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Education and Skills’s trade mission to China in late October was a fitting backdrop to a slew of positive news announcements:

– University College Dublin (UCD) opened an office in Beijing as Irish universities sought to step up their expansion into China. UCD estimated it has 1,000 alumni in China with over 100 based in Beijing.

– Trinity (TCD) announced a new Masters in Chinese Studies and the opening of the Trinity Centre for Asian Studies, which it says “aim to advance Chinese scholarship and to promote Ireland as a leading knowledge centre for pan-Asian language studies and research”.

– University of Limerick (UL) also signed deals with four Chinese institutions.

– In November, as the year drew to a close, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led a major trade mission of 37 companies to China. He also had plenty of positive news to announce:

– Kerrygold unveiled a new milk product for Chinese market, under the Chinese trade mark “Jin Kai Li”.

UCD, Irish company Richard Keenan & Co and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences joined forces to form the China-Ireland Dairy Science and Technology Centre with the goal of improving feeding efficiency, animal health and reduced environmental impact of dairy farming.

– Kerry Group launched a new Irish made infant nutrition product ‘Green Love’ for the China market. Produced at Kerry’s new €40 million facility in Charleville, Co. Cork. More importantly, 100 new jobs were created.

– Glanbia launched its Avonmore UHT milk brand in China.

Glanbia launches Avonmore UHT milk in China

Glanbia launched Avonmore UHT milk in China

Richard Keenan & Co entered into a franchise partnership with Shanghai Shengmu Livestock Company, a €7 million deal to accelerate sales of Richard Keenan‘s mixer wagons across the Chinese market.

A breakthrough year for Richard Keenan & Co

A breakthrough year for Richard Keenan & Co.

– Machinery company Samco, based in Adare, Co. Limerick, secured a purchase agreement with two companies based in Inner Mongolia, Northern China for their SAMCO maize planting machine and bio-degradable mulch film.

– Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), along with 12 Irish seafood companies, exhibiting to key buyers at the premier China Seafood Expo in Qingdao, highlighting boarfish in particular as a new viable product option.

Accurate China Insight Irish boarfish- 2014 a pivotal year in china ireland relations

– Irish mobile technology company Cubic Telecom signed a lucrative global agreement with China Unicom, to provide machine-to-machine (M2M) services to enterprise customers across mainland China and Hong Kong.

– Arthur Cox Listing Services acted as Listing Agent on the first Chinese transaction to list in Ireland, when China Petrochemical Corporation acted as guarantor for Sinopec Group Overseas Development (2013) Limited which listed its Dollar and Euro Senior Notes on the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE).

– Other notable deals for the island included: AB Pneumatics, a Lisburn Northern Ireland-based manufacturer of air springs for vehicle seating, won new business to supply £600,000 (€766,000) a year of equipment to Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) in Shanghai; Antrim-based Fastank won a deal to supply portable liquid storage systems for environmental clean-up operations at a major chemical plant in Shanghai; while BI Electrical, a specialist in electrical engineering services, has signed a £20 million (€25.5 million) China agreement with Keenshine in Shanghai.

– In December a team of Chinese veterinary inspectors visited Ireland to officially inspected Irish beef slaughtering and processing facilities. Irish beef producers are competing with Canadian and USA beef producers to gain China export approval. For Ireland to be the first EU member to have its beef approved for export to China would be major coup.

– The year ended on a high note with President Higgins of Ireland’s historic state visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, during which it was announced that President Xi Jinping of China had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland. (For additional insight into President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click the following url:  http://wp.me/p15Yzr-182)

President Xi Jinping of China welcomes President Higgins of Ireland to China

President Xi Jinping of China welcomed President Higgins of Ireland to China

Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be?

The one certainty in the relationship is that in the run-up to President Xi Jinping‘s return trip to Ireland, which is more likely to happen in 2016 (although with the next Irish general election expected to take place no later than 3 April 2016, the Irish Government will be pushing for President Xi Jinping to make undertake his State Visit to Ireland during the latter part of 2015) the political, economic and cultural relationship can only grow stronger. The one vulnerability is the transient Chinese economy, which although experiencing an extended period of volatility is unlikely to go off the rails.

Open Sesame

So soon after the close of such a vibrant year in Ireland – China relations, any talk of China’s massive appetite for Ireland’s baby formula, beef, pork suddenly metamorphosing into becoming a major cash cow at this point, is greatly overstated.

Every country trading with China wants a piece of the action, and in the food and drink sector competition is set to grow in intensity. For instance, Chile recently started exporting live cattle to China, while Australia recently concluded a free trade agreement with China that will give its exporters preferential pricing similar to that already enjoyed by New Zealand exporters.

It is highly probable that 2015 will see Irish beef producers benefit from the strengthened political bond by having their produce approved for export to China. Moreover, the formal announcement of a direct air-link and a significant rise in the numbers of tourists visiting Ireland are also highly likely.

Export opportunities

Relative to the overall size of the China market, for Irish businesses in search of China market opportunities, we would also beat the drum for:

  • Agricultural Technology;
  • Cleantech;
  • Construction Products and Technology;
  • Engineering;
  • Food Technology and Ingredients;
  • Healthcare and Hygiene Solutions;
  • Industrial Components (OEM suppliers), Life Sciences, Medical Devices (class I and II);

While in the B2C space, where domestic consumption is creating opportunities for foreign brands to sell products in China, the sectors we would make a pitch for include:

  • Foods and functional foods sold through grocery retail, health stores and on-line.
  • OTC and other products, e.g. baby products, consumer medical devices and aids, cosmetics, etc. that are sold through pharmacies, parapharmacies, health stores and on-line;
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

In addition, we are of the opinion that the time is ripe for a significant FDI from China, and in this regard two words come to mind: ‘Open Sesame’

Driven out of necessity, Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – is actively plotting its expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon. In this regard, we would be inclined to think the December visit by President Higgins and Minister of Finance Michael Noonan to Alibaba‘s headquarters in Hangzhou would have been quite effective in putting the squeeze on Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman, Alibaba Group, in considering Ireland as a possible location for further European expansion, bearing in mind that Alibaba already has an office in London’s Canary Wharf. (For additional insight into President Higgins’s visit to Hangzhou click the following url: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-18c)

President Higgins of Ireland meets Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group, in Hangzhou

President Higgins of Ireland met with Mr. Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group, in Hangzhou

Strategic sourcing

Given the extensive publicity that usually accompanies a China market breakthrough for an Irish exporter, it is easy to overlook the fact that the Ireland – China trading relationship is two-way.

Long known for manufacturing cheap products, over the past few years rising labour and real estate costs, have forced Chinese manufacturers to move up the value stream. Concurrently, an unrelenting series of tainted product scandals have generated a multitude of exacting government decreed benchmark quality standards. The ensuing marked improvement in product and food safety standards represents an economic transformation that is already rekindling China’s export competitiveness. By its very nature, we foresee Irish businesses increasingly focusing on China for strategic sourcing options, which over the course of the year will gradually eat into Ireland’s trade surplus with China.

Accurate Group – China Market Makers

Ireland is a long way away and Chinese people like to see a presence here. The first advice that we give to Irish companies coming to China is that they need to commit to the market. They are not going to come in and make a quick buck.

– Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland” Source: Irish Times, 15th December, 2014

The only way to succeed in China is to be aware and prepared – and to be on the ground. With this vital rule of thumb in mind, in 2014 Accurate Group, which is based in Hangzhou and Shanghai, was directly involved in developing China trade worth up to €4 million for Ireland’s food and drink sectors.

– By Niall O’Reilly

Niall O’Reilly is the Managing Director of Accurate Group, China Market Makers, and Director for China, Irish Exporters Association, has been based in Hangzhou since 2007.

Sourcehttp://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=l1UtkHyIg1Y= 

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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Special Olympics World Summer Games Euphoria – From Dublin 2003 to Shanghai 2007

Wow! It’s already over four years since the last Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted Dublin. It was the largest sports event ever hosted in Ireland.

From 2nd to 11th October the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be hosted by Shanghai [http://www.2007specialolympics.com], the first of the three Olympic Games to be staged in China over the next 14 months, including the Summer Olympics and the Paralympic Games to be held next Summer in Beijing.

Unlike now, the days before the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2003 in Dublin were mired in controversy. At the time both Hong Kong and China were affected by the outbreak of the illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Irish Government fearful of SARS spreading to Ireland decided to ban the Hong Kong Special Olympics team from traveling to Ireland to compete at the Games. There was outrage in Hong Kong with protests outside the office of the Honorary Consul of Ireland. For me what was particular odious about this decision was the fact that business men and women were still allowed to freely travel to Ireland.

In Ireland on the radio, television and in the newspapers there was intense debate about the Irish Government’s decision. Living and working in Hong Kong there was a palpable sense of outage amongst the Irish community. Something had to be done. I decided to write two letters. The first which was published on 6th June, was to the Irish Examiner newspaper, while the second letter was to Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Denis O’Brien (who was also an investor in the company I was working for at the time).

Irish Examiner Newpaper

Friday 6th June, 2003

 “Hong Kong’s special athletes hit by a peculiar Irish infection”

I WRITE in response to the latest “final” June 4 decision of the Department of Health and Children’s expert group on SARS and the Special Olympics to maintain its ban on Hong Kong’s disabled athletes travelling to Ireland, thus depriving them of the chance to attend what likely would be the most thrilling event in their lives.

This illogical decision comes after a period of unprecedented high-level dialogue between senior Hong Kong government officials and Irish medical experts in which the Hong Kong side sought to articulate a clearer understanding of the situation and the extra efforts that it would make to guarantee the health of its athletes before departure.

It is almost two weeks since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the lifting of its travel advisory against Hong Kong, noting that SARS outbreaks had been contained, which is not much different to its observations regarding the status of Canada and mainland China.

In fact, all new SARS cases confirmed in Hong Kong over the past month (an average of fewer than five cases per day compared to upwards of 60 daily at the end of March) have occurred in people who were already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities.

None of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes hoping to travel to Ireland has had contact with any SARS patients, or any suspected cases.

The WHO has highly commended Hong Kong’s transparency and aggressive Hong Kong Special Olympics procedures.

All close contacts of known SARS cases are quarantined at home.

In addition, their Hong Kong ID numbers are passed to the immigration department to ensure that they cannot leave the territory.

Since the implementation of these rigorous exit-screening procedures at border checkpoints, which also include mandatory temperature checking of all outbound travellers, there have been no reports of internationally exported cases of SARS from Hong Kong.

What is more, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against cancelling or postponing gatherings that will include people travelling to the US from areas with SARS, and the quarantine of persons arriving from SARS-affected areas who have shown no fever or respiratory symptoms.

As such, over the past fortnight Hong Kong exhibitors have been welcomed to the Las Vegas Jewellery Fair and the Cannes Film Festival as a result of the precautionary measures that the exhibitors had undertaken voluntarily.

And yet, it is against such transparency that Ireland still maintains its travel ban depriving athletes, some of whom have trained for up to eight years and whose team won 53 gold medals at the last Special Olympics, their chance to be the pride of Hong Kong.

Remarkably, no such travel ban has been imposed on other travellers from Hong Kong seeking entry to Ireland.

This ‘final’ decision appears not only irrational, but also hypocritical, given the latest guidelines conveniently lifting the travel ban on athletes from cities and regions where local transmission of SARS has not been reported, meaning that the Special Olympic Games will not be devoid of two of the largest participating teams, Canada and China.

It demonstrates that the Department of Health and Children has chosen not to follow the WHO‘s advice and made a decision without due regard to the precautionary measures that the Hong Kong Special Olympics Committee had proposed to take before their departure for the games.

The official flag presentation ceremony for the Hong Kong Special Olympics team is set to take place here on June 8, an event supported by The Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association, the St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong, the Irish Business Forum and Enterprise Ireland.

It is the fervent wish of the Irish community in Hong Kong that the Irish government remove this unnecessary travel ban.

Niall O’Reilly,

15, Mosque Street,

Mid-Levels,

Hong Kong.

[Source: This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, June 06, 2003 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2003/0606/ireland/hong-kongaposs-special-athletes-hit-by-a-peculiar-irish-infection-983257838.html]

The about-turn was remarkable.

Three days before the Opening Ceremony in Dublin, without prior notice, at 3.00 am I was awaken by the loud ringing sound of my telephone.  On the other end of the line was Denis O’Brien excitedly describing the excellent news that the Irish Government had decided to lift its travel ban and that the special athletes from Hong Kong were free to travel to Ireland. Denis O’Brien also offered to send his private jet to collect the Hong Kong team from London.

The Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin were a wonderful success, and I have heard from several people who were lucky enough to attend, the Opening Ceremony or witness it television that one of the most emotional memories of the evening was the arrival in the Croke Park stadium of the Hong Kong team when the packed house of 80,000 people stood up to cheer them these very special athletes. 

For me the abiding memory that will stay with me is being invited to represent the Irish Community of Hong Kong at the welcome home ceremony for the successful Hong Kong team. The sparkling smiles on the faces of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes, bedecked with gleaming gold and silver medals, will always stay in my mind.

“On June 19, I had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch – or Flame of Hope as it is called – and leading the Final Leg Torch Run team into Clonmel. Clonmel is a town of about 25,000 people and I would estimate that about half were on the streets to greet us. I have never seen so many Hong Kong flags in my life. They flew from the rooftops, from the buildings, from the churches and from the hands of thousands of people on the streets. And everyone was shouting Hong Kong! Hong Kong! at the tops of their voices.

“We ran into the town square where the Lord Mayor was present to greet us. I handed over the Flame of Hope. The Mayor took me to one side and told me that the Hong Kong team had not arrived. They were still in Macao under quarantine for SARS.

“To have run so far (over 200 miles) and not see the Hong Kong team was heartbreaking. I am not ashamed to say that I fell to my knees and wept.

“However, the Mayor told me that the Hong Kong team would be arriving in Dublin the following day and that a delegation from Clonmel would go to meet and welcome them. On the evening of June 21, we carried the Flame of Hope into Croke Park, Dublin, for the start of the games.

“The Special Olympics teams then marched into Croke Park in alphabetical order. I heard the master of ceremonies say “And now I see a particular team coming into the stadium. This is a team that we thought we would never see. But now they are here and we are so pleased to see them. Give a big, big welcome for Hong Kong!” About 85,000 people stood up and at the tops of their voices shouted: Hong Kong! Hong Kong! The noise was unbelievable! But it was obviously inspiring Ñ the Hong Kong Special Olympics team won 31 medals at this year’s games.

“I had a wonderful career with the Hong Kong Police Force and have had a wonderful life. But nothing in my experience is likely to top the emotion that I felt running for Hong Kong on the Law Enforcement Final Leg Torch Run.”

Source: Mr Peter Halliday, former Assistant Commissioner (Information Systems), Hong Kong Police Force helped carry the Special Olympics Games torch from Athens to Dublin http://www.police.gov.hk/offbeat/757/eng/s01.htm

"Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?" (Source: Mei-Yu Lau - http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html ]

Gymnast Mei-Yu Lau, Team Hong Kong, on the vault at the 2003 Special Olympics Summer Games in Dublin: “Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?”                                (Source: Mei-Yu Lau – http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html )

And so fast forward to late next week when a delegation of 1,000 Irish Special Olympians and their families will arrive in Shanghai to participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2007. Let the Games begin!

[Note: Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition]

Note: My review of the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2000, in Shanghai  ‘Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai’ is posted here: 

https://nialljoreilly.com/2007/11/08/words-matter-mentally-retarded-or-human-gift-looking-back-at-the-special-olympics-world-summer-games-in-shanghai/ ]

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