Ranjit Boparan: broken silence

Q4 bags Irish Rail contract

Well done to Q4, the public relations agency set up by former Fianna Fail advisers Jackie Gallagher and Martin Mackin. The company has just bagged a contract to provide PR advice to Irish Rail.

The contract, thought to be worth six figures, was awarded after a public tender. It's not known just what Q4 will be doing for Irish Rail, which already has an in-house media team but Q4 has been very successful in netting plenty of government work - it advises the National Consumer Agency amongst others, and was also the PR company chosen to sell e-voting a few years ago.

Now that Irish Rail has filled the important PR advisory role, the next task for the state-subsidised company (which lost €32m in 2009) is to find a chief executive.

Brindley's status quo

One government role not moving is the placement of state notices in the media. Brindley Advertising has once again retained the lucrative gig. What is surprising is that despite difficult times for advertising agencies just two bidders were evaluated for the contract, which is worth millions of euro each year. Still it will be a boost for Aegis, the UK media group that bought Brindley for €12m in 2005, to keep the job. The most recent accounts for the company show revenues dropping by 57% in 2009 to just under €10m and pre-tax profits collapsing from €2.5m to about €666,000.

Greencore merger 'on track'

Greencore and Northern Foods were doing their best to keep their planned merger on track last week as Ranjit Boparan, the owner of Harry Ramsden fish and chips shop chain, continued his attempt to scupper the deal with a counter bid.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Boparan broke his silence for the first time, telling the paper that he would keep Northern Foods intact if he were to gain control of the company. Boparan has until this Friday to make a bid for Northern, the maker of Goodfellas pizzas.

Both Greencore and Northern Foods said last week that the merger remains in the best interest of the two companies' investors. But with the Northern share price continuing to trade well ahead of the level implied by the merger with Greencore, it suggests that the market believes Boparan will come in with a higher offer. What may see Greencore win out is Northern's pension trustees ? Northern has an agreement to plug the deficit in the fund. On a conference call with analysts on Thursday, Northern's acting chief executive Simon Herrick said the deal to fill the hole in the pension fund falls if the Greencore merger fails.

Economic review delay

The Department of Finance is no nearer to publishing the review of its performance through the economic crisis conducted by Rob Wright, a former head of Canada's finance ministry. Finance minister Brian Lenihan said the report has been completed and submitted to him and will now be reviewed by government before it is released.