The digital business week

1 Mar 2010

A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

More cost-cutting on the way for Eircom

Eircom CEO Paul Donovan has warned that further cost reductions will be required to steer the incumbent telco on the road to stability. Announcing the company’s half-year results, he added that Eircom is close to launching a new portfolio of next- generation network services. The company now has 750,000 fixed and mobile-broadband customers and some 1.08 million mobile customers, if you include 32,000 mobile-broadband subscribers. Group revenue for the six months were down 9pc year on year to €933 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was down 3pc to €327 million. “The operating environment in Ireland has not improved,” Donovan warned. “The group’s revenues remain under pressure and our profits have declined in the quarter despite continued good progress on costs. Further cost reduction will be required in the coming months.

Onformonics to create 22 Dublin jobs after raising €600k

A payment risk technology company based at the Dublin Business Innovation Centre has raised €600,000 in a funding round led by AIB Seed Capital and backed by Enterprise Ireland and private investors. Payment risk specialist Onformonics was founded in 2008 by Conor McGoveran and Martin Petrov. It has already built a strong customer base in Europe and has plans to expand into the Middle East, Africa and the US by the end of the year. To support this growth, the company is recruiting 22 additional employees for its European headquarters in Dublin by 2013. This will bring its total number of employees to 35. Onformonics provides innovative risk management solutions to companies faced with the regulatory and industry compliance requirements of the financial services sector.

Govt cutbacks haunt future of venture capital

Despite Irish tech firms’ equity funding increasing 20pc to €288 million in 2009, concerns have been raised that Government cutbacks may impact on future early stage and seed-funding rounds. Irish companies raised €288 million last year, up 18.6pc on the previous year, according to the latest Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) Venture Pulse survey. But director general Regina Breheny warned: “In order to promote and develop the smart economy, these high levels of first-round funding for seed and start-up companies must be maintained.” She expressed concern that Government spending cuts at agencies like Enterprise Ireland could inhibit the emergence of future innovative companies. “It would be a false economy as research shows that these companies grow faster, hire more graduates and export more than other indigenous firms.” She added that Irish software firms will have the opportunity to network and learn how to raise funds at the IVCA/ISA Software Investment Forum on 15 April.

Irish operations ‘terrible’, Harvey Norman says

The chairman of Australian electronics retailer Harvey Norman has described the plight of the group’s 14-store operations in Ireland as “terrible”, but the company has said it is committed to its Irish stores. Harvey Norman’s executive chairman Gerry Harvey made the comment during an interview with Bloomberg TV. “It’s terrible, we’ve got a situation where we are losing a lot of money in Ireland and it’s not improving,” Harvey said. “I’m not counting on it improving; I’m counting on it staying as bad as it is and hoping and praying it gets bit better.” The electronics retailer said it had reduced pre-tax losses at its Irish operations somewhat during the first half of its financial year ended 31 December to AUS$17 million. This was down from the AUS$19.8-million loss reported during the same period a year previous.

UPC Ireland hits 148,000 broadband users, VoD on way

Cable broadband and TV player UPC has ratcheted up its broadband subscriber numbers and now reaches 148,000 subscribers. CEO Robert Dunn said €400 million has been invested in upgrading the company’s Irish network. The company now passes some 877,400 homes overall, out of which 713,300 are termed revenue-generating units. Subscribers for UPC’s digital cable services stood at 276,900 while subscribers for its analog services stood at 153,600. The company has 74,300 MMDS subscribers. The company now serves 148,100 homes with high-speed cable broadband and has a total addressable broadband market at present of 593,000 homes. UPC is currently building out a next-generation network that will offer speeds of up to 120Mbps. The company also plans to offer video-on-demand (VoD) products this year.

Microsoft and Enterprise Ireland launch BizSparkCamp 2010

Software giant Microsoft and Enterprise Ireland are holding a free, day-long conference that will feature tech entrepreneur Brian Caulfield and a PitchSlam event that will provide the opportunity to be identified as one of the world’s most promising technology start-ups. The day-long conference will run on Monday, 8 March, at the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Dublin’s city centre. “At last year’s BizSpark event, we worked to provide business guidance on how to get start-ups off the ground,” said Clare Dillon from Microsoft Ireland. “From feedback, this year the plan is to focus on ways to secure funding, as well as ways to build up new markets. Any company currently looking for funding, grants or other sources of capital – or currently looking to expand their business to new markets, they should come along to hear from local and visiting speakers about the programs and supports available through BizSpark and the Irish start-up ecosystem.”

Palm Pre smart-phone gamble not paying off

Palm’s gamble on its innovative Palm Pre smart phone doesn’t appear to have produced the results the company had hoped. The company’s Q3 revenues are being impacted by “slower than expected” consumer adoption. The company said it expects revenues for the third quarter to be less than US$310 million, which means the company will struggle to reach the US$1.6 billion to US$1.8 billion year-end target for May it had originally forecast. It said it expects revenues for Q3 to be in the range of US$300 million to US$310 million. “Revenues for the quarter and full year are being impacted by slower than expected consumer adoption of the company’s products that has resulted in lower than expected order volumes from carriers and the deferral of orders to future periods.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: BizSparkCamp on 8 March aims to help start-ups get off the ground

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years