Weekend news roundup

19 Jul 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Haunted by spectre of a brain drain

Writing in the Sunday Independent, John Reynolds said the spectre of a “brain drain” has returned. One of the current recession’s most worrying developments is the re-emergence of the Eighties’ phenomenon known as the “brain drain”.

Multinationals continually quote the availability and calibre of Irish graduates as one of Ireland Inc’s main competitive draws, yet current figures suggest the migration tide is turning outwards. That other economies will reap the benefit of Ireland’s investment in its third-level education system is frankly a crying shame socially and a serious threat to the future viability and success of the Irish economy.

So who can stem the flow before it becomes an exodus? Recession-knocked multinationals or a cash-strapped Government faced with growing dole queues?

The solution could lie with both. Could industry and Government come together to collaborate on a jointly funded graduate recruitment scheme?

3 to sponsor Irish soccer team?

The Irish Times reported Saturday that mobile phone group 3 is believed to be in advanced discussions with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) about sponsoring the Irish soccer team in a deal understood to be valued at more than €2m a year.

The group would replace Eircom, the FAI’s long-time sponsor, which is believed to have decided not to renew its deal with the association when it expires on 31 December.

Loss of app-etite

Writing in The Observer, John Naughton says he’s concerned about what Google’s new App Inventor product that allows ordinary people to create Android apps will do to the emerging app market. He said if daft apps are what emerge from the level of applied IQ poured into iPhone development, imagine what it will be like when any Tom, Dick or Harriet can have a go. Maybe it will be wonderful, and we will see a blossoming of app-making creativity. Or maybe we will just discover that Gresham’s Law – stated as “bad money drives out good if their exchange rate is set by law” – also applies to software.

FM likely to stay with us for some time

The Sunday Independent carried an interesting story revealing FM radio is unlikely to be made obsolete by digital radio any time soon. Ireland’s millions of radio listeners have been told they will not have to throw their sets away after the Government vowed it would not be switching off the country’s FM signal.

Britain and parts of Europe are planning to switch off their analogue signal in favour of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), sparking fears that the same would happen here.

Standard radios can’t pick up the digital signal, which would make them, and millions of car radios, obsolete.

RTE is already broadcasting DAB in parts of the country: the greater Dublin area; northeast Leinster; Cork city; and Limerick city.

It ran a trial for two years from 2006 to 2008, and now has a licence to broadcast on DAB. It has set up RTE Junior, RTE Choice, RTE Pulse, RTE Gold, RTE Chill and RTE 2XM, all of which are only available on digital.

Although some commercial stations used DAB during the two-year trial, none have since continued with the technology.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said Ireland has no plan to cease VHF-FM band II.

Betfair plans IPO

The Financial Times reported that Betfair, the world’s biggest betting exchange operator, is to consider a stock market flotation after the summer in a listing that could value the group at £1.5bn.

The group, which pulled a flotation plan in 2005, is understood to have held talks with its advisers at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley about a plan for an initial public offering as early as September.

There is no guarantee of any float but people close to the situation said Betfair was “95pc certain” to announce an IPO in the autumn.

There has been talk of a Betfair flotation since last autumn, stoked by a series of board, executive and advisory appointments along with the privately owned company’s decision to publish its results.

The group, founded 11 years ago, is understood to be seeking to float chiefly to provide an exit route for some of its existing shareholders.

Cork energy firm raises €3.2m

The Sunday Tribune reported that Kedco, a Cork-based energy company, has raised €3.2m from investors to fund an electricity plant in Newry.

The company said the cash was raised through the issue of loan notes to new and existing investors.

The notes being issued will be bought back in two years or earlier if the company is sold, Kedco said.

“The money will be used to develop and progress previously identified joint venture opportunities in power generation from waste and for working-capital purposes. We look forward to updating the market as to the progress of future fund raising,” chief executive Donal Buckley said.

Kedco reported a first-half loss of €1.5m, down from almost €3m year-on-year, on sales of €4.2m, which rose 28pc.

The company, which is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market, uses wood, agricultural and food waste for fuel in its electricity plants.

Telefónica walks away from Vivo buyout

The Financial Times reported that Telefónica has dropped its €7.15bn (£6bn $9.25bn) offer to buy Portugal Telecom (PT) out of Vivo, their Brazilian mobile phone joint venture, refusing a last-minute request from the Portuguese group for more time to reach a deal.

The Spanish operator is now expected to pursue alternative strategies for gaining control of Vivo, which could include further talks with PT, or to look for other assets in Brazil.

Telefónica’s offer was accepted two weeks ago by a large majority of PT shareholders, but the Portuguese government used preferential state voting rights known as a golden share to veto the deal.

The Spanish group responded by extending the deadline for PT to accept the offer until midnight on Friday and began negotiations with PT’s management.

PT ended a board meeting hours before the deadline expired without reaching a decision and asked for a further extension to 28 July. But Telefónica declined the request.

“The discussions with Telefónica have progressed in a constructive manner,” PT said, adding that the board was committed to using its “best endeavours to conclude them in a way that satisfies the interests of all parties”.

However, Telefónica replied that it had already told PT that there would be no further extension and that the offer had now expired.

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