Author Archives: seankelly1998

These 10 Companies Control Almost Everything we Consume

It’s a scary thought isn’t it. All of our favourite brands owned and controlled by no more than 10 individual companies. How is it possible for such a small number of companies to be associated with every single major food and drink brand that we have ever come across and who are they? Some of them you will most likely recognise and some maybe not. 6 of these companies are American, 1 is Swiss, 1 is British, 1 is French and there is also a British-Dutch company.

Oxfam released the information as a way of spreading awareness about the huge concentration of market power in the industry so that people would be aware of who owns what they are buying, ultimately in an effort to push these companies to make positive changes. Let’s take a look at them:

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  1. Mondelez
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Mondelez made about $25.9 billion in snacks in 2017. They own all of Cadbury (which incorporates a huge number of chocolate bars such as Crunchies, Freddos and Twirls) as well as other consumer favourites Oreo, Milka and Toblerone. They also own Sour Patch Kids and Kenco.

2.Unilever

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Another one of the well known companies that make up the 10 we will discuss. Unilever owns a vast wide-ranging catalog of brands including Lyons, Knorr and Hellmans. They are also the single biggest ice cream producer in the world with Magnum, Cornetto and Ben ‘n Jerrys under their belt. Unilever accumulated $51 billion in revenue in 2018.

3. Coca Cola

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Next on the list is soft drink giant Coca Cola. Coming in at a revenue in 2017 of 35.41 billion, the company is in charge of Coke, Sprite and Fanta. It is not just soft drinks that they own however as they also control Smart Water, Innocent Smoothies and Honest Tea.

4. Nestlé

The Swiss company made a staggering $90.8 billion revenue in 2017. These guys produce a lot of the chocolate we consume that Mondelez doesn’t under Cadbury. This includes KitKat, Smarties, Rolos and Aeros. They also own Nescafe of course but one that you mightn’t have been aware of is Polo mints being owned by Nestlé.

5. PepsiCo

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As far as drinks go PepsiCo owns Pepsi, Gatorade and Tropicana fruit juices. Interestingly they also own and market the Starbucks drinks available outside of Starbucks stores. Surprisingly Walkers is owned by PepsiCo, meaning that they control the production of Walkers crisps, Doritos and Cheetos. They recorded revenue of $63.53 billion in 2017

6. General Mills

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$15.62 billion is how much this company managed to make in 2017. They did this through their companies that include Green Giant, Old El Paso and Nature Valley. Not to mention the fact that they own 25 different cereal brands, one of which is Cheerios. Haagen-Dazs is another company owned by General Mills and they also own Parker Bros., the makers of Monopoly.

7. Kellogs

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Kellogs made $12.92 billion revenue in 2017, smaller compared to the rest of the companies in this domain but certainly not something to be scoffed at. This company produces Kellogs alongside over 30 other different cereals. Pringles, Nutri-Grain and Pop-Tarts are produced by Kellogs as well.

8. Associated British Foods

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The only solely British company in this group received revenue of roughly $19 billion in 2018. Probably owning some of the lesser known brands in the group, the company is in charge of brands like Twinings, Kingsmill and Ryvita Biscuits. They are however responsible for the export of massive American brands such as Tabasco hot sauce and Skippy peanut butter.

9. Mars

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Apart from the obvious, Mars owns pretty much any chocolate that isn’t Cadburys or Nestlé. Chocolate such as M&M’s, Galaxy and Snickers. What’s less obvious is their ownership of Wrigleys, which produces a plethora of chewing gum brands like Extra, Hubba Bubba and Orbit. Wrigleys also makes Skittles and Starbursts. The brands that few people would know are owned by Mars include Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio. $35 billion is how much revenue Mars made in 2017.

10. Danone

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In 2017, Danone received roughly $27.5 billion in revenue. Bottled water brands Evian and Volvic as well as yoghurts Activia and Actimel are owned by Danone. They also sell medical nutrition products such as Cow and Gate.

So there you have it. These are the 10 companies and the brands that they own. I’m sure you’ve heard of most if not all of these companies. However, it is still a little overwhelming to see just how many brands they own between them. Hopefully you got some interesting insight into who actually owns what brands and if you’re anyway similar to me, you will find it difficult to eat your Uncle Ben’s microwave rice knowing that it is made by the same company as your beloved M&M’s.

Boojum: Hungry for Growth

Boojum. It’s everyone’s favourite burrito joint, right? Although we are all aware of the divide in opinion about the best place to grab a burrito, one must admit that Boojum stores just seem to keep on popping up out of nowhere. That just can’t be a coincidence. In the next few paragraphs or so we will delve into how exactly the company came to be where it is today (Undoubtedly the best burrito place around), what’s been happening for them recently and where it is they aspire to take their Mexican wholesomeness in the years to come.

Burritos in Belfast:

            Boojum was established in 2007 by John and Karen Blisard when they opened a burrito bar called Boojum in Belfast. The idea of having a burrito bar was unusual at the time in Ireland but the couple refused to listen to outside criticism and skepticism and continued to run their burrito place despite the boldness of the move. It took €200,000 to get the first Boojum restaurant up and running and this was the only Boojum around for 3 years until the Blisard’s opened their second restaurant in Dublin in March 2010 followed by another in Belfast City Centre later on that year.

The Belfast couple experienced continued growth and in 2013 opened another restaurant in Galway and their fifth one on Kevin Street a year later. Their expansion plan was simple, to find good locations with affordable rent. It is also interesting to note the couples reluctancy to franchise their business, something that they admit was due to their research into their highly successful US counterpart “Chipotle” and the fact that they did not franchise their business.

Buying Boojum:

The initial success of Boojum lead to it being bought in 2015. The burrito chain was taken over by a partnership between Renatus Capital Partners and former Ulster rugby player Andrew Maxwell. Renatus is a private equity company that is backed by wealthy individuals and this was the first deal for them since their establishment, taking a 50% stake of the company. The other half goes to Andrew Maxwell along with his brother David, who previously ran a number of restaurants in the US. The company was bought for over €3 million.

In the last 4 years Boojum has gone from 5 to 18 stores and now spans from 5 restaurants in Belfast and 9 in Dublin to locations in Galway, Cork, Limerick and even just last month opening its newest restaurant in Derry. The now Managing Director David Maxwell states that targeting the brand at a core market of young professionals and students aged 18-40, with the disposable income and desire to eat out regularly in the evening but also requiring speedy delivery at lunchtime has been key to growing the Mexican food chain. The company has also increased its workforce from 125 to just under 600 employees.

The company has not only been opening up new stores but has been exploring other possible ways to maximise its growth. In 2016 Boojum teamed up with Deliveroo so that people could order their well needed burrito fix straight to their door. Not only this but they launched their “Boojmobile” to serve college campuses and festivals when burritos are typically that bit harder to access. These developments by Boojum really showcase their understanding of their target market and their ability to exploit the opportunities available to them.

In their financial year 2017-2018 (year ended 23rd April last) Boojum recorded revenue of €18.5 million, a growth of more than 50% from their previous year. They did however record pre-tax losses of just over €650,000. This was due to exceptional costs such as store closures during the “Beast from the East” and delayed store openings. The directors state that “overall, it proved to be a very positive transitional year for Boojum. By the end of the period, the group had a strong foothold in Ireland, new stores were established and management was well positioned to explore new opportunities to drive the business forward”. Boojum has evidently put itself into a very favorable position, one as aforementioned will grant them access to expand on their recent prosperity.

British Burritos:

             Brexit has admittedly been a concern for the company considering its cross-border presence says Maxwell. They are tasked with trading and purchasing in multiple currencies and so they must manage the risks associated with this. Maxwell also states that looking forward they are trying to understand what the impact of a hard/soft Brexit might be on their supply chain and logistics. Despite all this there have been rumours of Boojum targeting Britain in the years to come. Although it is too early to really know whether this will happen or not it would not come as a surprise. I mean where else can you go when you’ve already established yourself so strongly in the Irish market and you’re still hungry for growth.

Why Companies Should Play More and Pay Less

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, right? It’s safe to say that employers tend to think so. With the modern day and all of its distractions has come the increasing importance of switching off from work and taking the time to relax. The phrase “work-life balance” has become a buzz word known to every person who has every entered the workplace and rightfully so. Work-life balance has become the most important aspect of a company people look at
when applying for jobs. Don’t believe me? A survey done in September of 2018 revealed that 63% of Irish job-hunters found work-life balance to be important when searching for a job. This placed it at the top of the list of priorities, ahead of “the ability to have nice things” which only 42% of job hunters found to be important.Why Work-Life Balance?Naturally we begin to wonder what has led us to the point where people value the ability to wind down over earning lots of money. From looking back at the previous generations of “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X” we notice how these generations didn’t have the luxury of demanding a work-life balance. Work was oftentimes scarce and so any work was good work as long as it provided an adequate income. As time has passed and economies and technologies have developed, endless opportunities have been bestowed upon “Millennials” in such a way that they know nothing else but being able to choose the best option possible. Now Millennials aren’t the only generation in the workforce, but they are in the overwhelming majority when it comes to the number of people who are seeking employment right now. As well as this it
is estimated that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials.So why is it that work-life balance has become the most sought after feature of a job given that there are many benefits that a company can offer potential employees other than the ability to balance their lives. As it turns out there are quite a few reasons actually:

  • Fewer health problems- being overworked, tired and stressedleads to higher risks of mental health problems, flus and heart-related problems.
  • Higher productivity- employees who are able to achieve a work- life balance successfully will have the ability to be more engaged at work, leading to higher levels of productivity.
  • Decreased likelihood of burning out- employees that “leave workat work” are much less likely to burnout.
  • A healthy lifestyle- employees can pursue goals outside of work. such as travel, hobbies or raising a family without work interfering
  • Increased levels of happiness- working for an employer that gives you the freedom to live and enjoy your life outside of work really benefits how we feel on a day-to-day basis

These reasons all work massively in favour of the employee when we take into account their life as a whole, which is what really matters at the end of the day. As the saying goes “Money can’t buy the decreased likelihood of burning out”, or something like that. When we consider the above factors it is no wonder that work-life has become increasingly important in recent years and why employees value this more than that big pay cheque or fancy company car. Of course this isn’t to say that these things aren’t important to people. Not only is a good work-life balance important to employees but its benefits for employers can also be seen.

As we know employees will be more productive if they are happy at work and this will generate more profit for companies. Not only this but a company that strives to achieve this balance for its employees will have much more favourable employee retention and so reduce its costs. It has been reported that replacing an employee costs on average around £30,000 and it takes up to 28 weeks to get them up to speed. Not exactly what a company wants to deal with.

How is it being promoted?

Unfortunately for some employers they have misconstrued what is meant by a work-life balance and have truly promoted “play” in their “Millennial-friendly” workplaces by adding such features like bean bags and tables tennis tables. Now these perks are all well and good and some of the best companies to work for such as Facebook and Google employ these within their offices (along with effective techniques which we will discuss later) but employees don’t really tend to care for such things.

Many of you may think that giving your employees a healthy work-life balance is as simple as letting them work 9-5 and not giving them too much work to do. However, in today’s demanding world such an ideal job is just not possible, especially not for companies who want to be the best at what they do. So what are companies doing that is actually effective?

  • Encourage time off- offering and enforcing the usage of holidays will allow employees to shut off and take a break from work.
  • Implement short breaks throughout the day- allowing employees to go for a walk, grab a coffee or socialise for a few minutes really helps employees keep their concentration when they are working.
  • Offer a flexible working environment- flexible work hours, working from home and personal time off give employees the freedom to work around their busy lives and live their desired lifestyle.
  • Promote a positive culture- employers can promote a healthy lifestyle within the workplace and offer services such as meditation, sports teams and even social events.

Salesforce is a prime example of a company that has really adopted the idea of promoting a great work-life balance for its employees. Currently ranked 2 and in the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2019”, it offers its employees a wellness reimbursement for engaging in healthy activities (getting paid to look after yourself!), the freedom to finish work at a reasonable hour every day and giving them huge flexibility in terms of when and where they can work. Companies should take a page out of Salesforces’ book as they have become such a strong firm in recent years and perhaps all down to their ability to keep their employees happy in this way.

Where to next?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated just last year that he doesn’t believe in the term “work-life balance” as it is “debilitating”. He says such a term implies a strict trade-off between the two and so employees should instead adopt a term he has pronounced “work-life harmony”. The wealthiest person in the world suggests that we should strive for a holistic relationship between work and life where it is not a balance between them but instead a circle where one feeds into the other. In reality there is little difference in the practical application between “work-life balance” and “work-life harmony” yet the mind-set of the multi-billionaire suggests a subtle difference in how we can structure our approach to applying the concept in our own lives and it has certainly seemed to work for him anyway.

Perhaps in the years to come employers will begin to use this term instead and look at truly allowing their employees to have full control of the healthy and happy lifestyles that they envision for themselves.

​Yet we have to consider the other side of the coin. Will it really be practical for companies to give employees as much autonomy and flexibility as they desire? At what point will it become too much and stop benefiting the profitability of a company? Although this will be very hard to predict, we can rest easy knowing that it is in the interest of both employees and companies to continue to work together to promote the right work-life balance within organisations so that they can both reach their respective goals of happiness and profit.

Revolut: Banking Built For Millennials

Sean Kelly

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Let’s face it, if you don’t have it now then what are you waiting for?
Revolut has taken Ireland and the UK by storm the last couple of years, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the mobile-based current account let me fill you in.

Revolut is just like your normal banking app on your phone, except that it actually works. It was launched in July of 2015 by its two co-founders, Vlad Yatsenko (CTO) and Nikolay Storonsky (CEO). The pair had previously spent 10 years in the investment banking industry where they experienced first-hand the astronomical fees applied to foreign exchange
transactions. Their exposure to these fees led to the light bulb moment that in 2018 was
valued at $1.7 billion.

The mobile app offers a range of features and all for free if you stay with the standard
subscription. The customer is straight away met with the simplicity and convenience that
sets it apart from its competitors as opening an account takes only a few minutes and can
be set up directly from your phone.

Once you’re set up you can manage your money through instant payment notifications and vaults that allow for the putting away and saving of money. If your friends are on Revolut you can send and request money from them instantly or even split a bill. Spending money abroad becomes a whole lot easier as you canuse your card abroad at the interbank exchange rate and take out money from ATM’s in the local currency with no withdrawal fee (up to a certain limit).
Not to mention you can buy cryptocurrencies and do some casual checking of the exchange rates (This article is not sponsored by Revolut).

Revolut has described itself as a “World Beyond Banking”. The benefits of using Revolut are endless and its slick app design and efficient processes make it
every millennials dream.

At the start of 2018 the fintech company reached a million users, 2 and a half years after it
was first established. In April of 2018 the company raised $250 million from a funding round
that was led by DST Global, a company that was early investors in Facebook and Spotify. The
funding round also included high profile venture capital firms such as Index Ventures and
Ribbit Capital. This funding round led to Revoluts’ $1.7 billion valuation which subsequently made it at the time “Europe’s Fastest Growing Unicorn”, which is by all means a highly
impressive feat.

The company now has over 3,000,000 users (200,000 of which are in Ireland) and is supported in all countries within the European Economic Area (EEA), along with Switzerland and also Australia. It recently announced its Metal subscription plan, which is essentially its Premium plan on steroids. For a cost of €8 a month users can enjoy a premium subscription where they can avail of upgrades such as a higher limit on feeless ATM withdrawals abroad, global medical insurance and discounted device insurance. The Metal subscription allows the user to earn 1% cashback on card payments, free concierge and access to airport lounges, coming in at €14 a month. The introduction of the Metal plan is testament to the constant updates that Revolut provides its customers. It is one of many examples of the company continuously progressing. Another such example is the previously mentioned airport lounges feature. This allows Metal users to get access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide. Users simply book a pass, present it and you’re waiting for your flight in style.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news surrounding Revolut recently is the securing of a European banking licence. With this the fintech firm plans to start accepting deposits, offering overdrafts and also personal and business loans that are comparable if not better than traditional high street lenders. This really sets the way for the company to establish itself as a fully functioning bank.

​What I find most interesting and admirable about the company is its plans for the future.
With its banking licence secured, the company has focused its efforts on progressing its
commission-free stock trading along with its plan of launching its five new international
markets. CEO Nikolay Storonsky stated that they truly are on their way to becoming the
“Amazon of banking” as he intends to have 100 million people using his platform within the
next 5 years.
For those interested I’d highly recommend following Revolut’s blog where they consistently
post news and updates surrounding their business. You can keep up to date first hand with
the developments in this ever evolving fintech and also its questionable use of emojis on
social media!

Irish Corporation Tax: How It really works

Sean Kelly

We all know about Irelands’ low corporation tax. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest factor that attracts foreign direct investment into Ireland. Being an English speaking, highly-educated island on the American side of Europe is already enough to be considered the ideal place to locate a European HQ for many multinational companies. It would seem that our low tax rate of 12.5% on the profits of a company is the icing on the cake for all the sweet toothed global firms. Let’s look at just how many of the worlds’ top companies actually are located in Ireland.

This list of companies includes old favourites such as Apple and Microsoft but also some of the more recent companies like Google and Facebook. For a country with a population of roughly 5 million people this is highly impressive and just goes to show how attractive our rate of corporation tax really is. To put our low corporation tax rate into perspective we can compare it to the rates of other countries within the EU. Ireland has the joint 3rd lowest rate in the EU with Cyprus, following only Hungary and Bulgaria (countries which are all on the far side of Europe and are less likely to attract American companies).
As I’m sure many of you are aware, we can’t simply put multinationals and Irelands’ corporation tax in the same sentence anymore without thoughts coming to mind of the Apple tax case that was ruled upon in 2016. This is the most prominent case that demonstrates that multinationals in Ireland do not necessarily pay the rate that is advertised for all companies (the statutory rate).
In 2016 it was ruled by the EU Commission that Ireland had given the multinational tech giant illegal state aid amounting to a staggering amount of €13 billion in the previous decade. In 2003 Apple paid an effective tax rate of 1% on its’ European profits recorded by its Irish subsidiaries and this had fallen to a rate of 0.005% in 2014. In the second half of last year €14.3 billion (including EU interest) was collected by Ireland from Apple and is now being held in escrow (a financial agreement where a third party holds funds for two parties involved in a transaction) until the Department of Finances’ appeal of the decision is complete.
This effective tax rate paid by Apple is not unusual for multinationals in Ireland however. It was found through a report by PwC that in 2015 in Ireland, 13 of the top 100 companies with the highest taxable income had an effective rate of less than 1% in 2015. Among this cohort, eight had an effective tax rate of 0% on qualifying income. It is important to note that this official report also recorded an estimated effective rate of 12.4%, which is obviously just below our statutory rate of 12.5%, showing little variation between what is advertised and what is paid overall in the country from all firms.
So how and why is it possible for the largest multinationals to pay such low amounts you may ask? As to the how, well this reflects the use of significant tax credits and reliefs, such as double taxation (when tax is levied by two or more jurisdictions on the same income/asset or financial transaction) relief and also research and development tax credits. Companies have been and are still using in particular tax avoidance arrangements provided by the Irish government such as “Double Irish” and “Single Malt” (10/10 for creativity on the names) which basically involve exploiting double taxation agreements Ireland has with other countries. Ireland has received much criticism on how it taxes (or lack thereof) multinationals in this way.
In the case of Apple, they were attributing billions of dollars of profits each year to three Irish subsidiaries that declared “tax residency” nowhere in the world, something which other firms hadn’t been doing. This was one step too far for the EU commission and so they made the subsequent ruling of the €13 billion payment to Ireland.
And why does Ireland allow this to happen? Simple. Having these multinationals located here is nothing but beneficial for Ireland. Our economy benefits, jobs are created and revenue is generated from the tax that is collected. Not to mention that it makes the country look great as well. If the government heavily enforced the 12.5% corporation tax rate on multinationals then they wouldn’t locate here and that to the Irish government would be more costly than taxing them the statutory rate.
So I suppose you could say the government are between a rock and a hard place, just involving billions of euros.