The outlook for the Irish economy continues to be poor with GDP expected to decline by 8% this year and 3% in 2010, according to government figures. The recommendations of An Bord Snip Nua, would, if fully implemented, take €5.3bn out of the economy, impacting on consumer confidence and reducing spending. Therefore, with the outlook for the Irish economy so poor, it would seem there is no value in the Irish market.
We would argue otherwise. There are a number of well-run businesses with strong management and healthy balance sheets. These companies have significant exposures outside the Irish economy and are not reliant on the domestic economy to drive growth.
There is something of a silver lining to the decline of the banks and property parts of the Iseq. The fact that our main trading partners are the UK and the US means they are also significant markets for a large number of companies listed on the Iseq.
In the UK, policy actions of the government have prevented the economy moving into a prolonged downturn. As a result, we believe, sterling will strengthen further, which will help the profitability of Irish companies exporting to the UK.
Recovery in the US will also help those Irish companies with a significant exposure to that economy as the aggressive policy actions taken by the US government and the Federal Reserve result in the economy returning to positive growth next year.
Boosted by the stabilisation in the US and UK economies and the strong business models of our preferred Irish companies, they will generate significant profits and have entered the recession with relatively low levels of debt. Such companies are in a situation where they can pay down debt over the next number of years, leaving themselves with greater flexibility to make opportune acquisitions of weaker competitors.
Kerry Group is one Irish company that matches our criteria outlined above. The company has a diversified business with large exposures to the US and UK economies while the balance sheet is relatively debt-free.
A company which will benefit from sterling strengthening against the euro is DCC. Over 70% of the group's sales is earned in the UK. The group has a strong balance sheet, with low levels of debt and strong cash flows. DCC also benefits from a diversified range of businesses, from healthcare to energy.
CRH is now the largest stock on the Iseq, with a 33% weighting in the index. While the short-term outlook remains difficult, it will be a major beneficiary of economic stimulus measures in both areas and in particular the US. CRH recently raised over €1bn in new equity, providing the group with circa €2.5bn to spend on opportune acquisitions.
Another Irish stock with a worldwide reputation is Ryanair. Compared to its debt-laden compatriots, it has cash on its balance sheet of €2.3bn.
With the Irish economy seen in a negative light from an international perspective, the Iseq has been similarly tainted. As outlined above, many Irish companies generate a significant proportion of their earnings from outside of Ireland and will be beneficiaries from an upturn in global economic activity despite the Irish economy lagging behind.
They highlight that the Irish economy is not just built on financial and property-related sectors but that Irish companies have a strong track record in building successful international businesses. It is this track record that should be developed to restore the Irish economy to growth. Such actions will help create more sustainable export-led growth than that experienced in the last few years.
The author is head of research at Dolmen Research