Category Archives: Irish MNCs

2/2/16: MNC Ireland: A new Documentary

A new and well-worth watching documentary on the power of multinational companies in Ireland and Ireland's status as a corporate tax haven is available here:

Note: Strangely enough, the documentary cites me as a Chairman of the IRBA (which I was at the time). It is worth repeating again that I never speak on behalf of any organisation I am involved with and the IRBA never had a corporate opinion on any policy-related issues. I only express my own personal views.

10/12/15: Irish National Accounts 3Q: Part 1: Sectoral Growth

CSO released data for national accounts for Ireland, so in the next few posts I will be covering headline results. As usual, starting with sectoral accounts, showing decomposition of growth by sector. All data is based on seasonally unadjusted figures, allowing for y/y comparatives and expressed in real terms.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector contribution to GDP:

  • Real activity in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector rose strong 16.0% y/y in 3Q 2015 a rate of growth that was more robust than 9.97% expansion recorded in the sector in 3Q 2014. This is the fastest pace of y/y growth in 3 quarters, and especially welcoming given that 2Q 2015 growth came in at negative -2.87% y/y. Overall, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector contributed EUR210 million to GDP growth in 3Q 2015, which amounts to 7% of total 3Q 2015 expansion in GDP y/y. On a cumulative 3 quarters basis, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector expanded its activity by EUR200 million or +5.67% y/y, which is well below same period 2014 growth that stood at EUR502 million and +16.58%. 
  • One key conclusion from the above figures is that Agriculture Forestry and Fishing has expanded robustly over both 3Q 2015 and on the cumulative basis over the first nine months of 2015. Which is good news.

Industry sector contribution to GDP:
  • Overall Industry, including construction posted expansion of 16.08% y/y in 3Q 2015, which compares favourably to 5.15% growth in 2Q 2015 and to 4.23% growth y/y in 3Q 2014. Industry contribution to GDP growth over the first nine months of 2015 stood at EUR3.519 billion up 10.17% y/y. This is an improvement on the sector contribution over the first nine months of 2014 which stood at EUR2.25 billion (+6.95% y/y).
  • Within Industry sector, Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sub-sector activity rose 17.83% y/y in 3Q 2015 - a pace of growth well ahead of 5.51% growth in 2Q 2015 and 3.70% in 3Q 2014. Over the first nine months of 2015, Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sub-sector added EUR3.412 billion to our GDP (+10.97% y/y), which vastly outstrips EUR1.913 billion added by the sub-sector to the economy over the first nine months of 2014. 
  • So, our second core conclusion from these data is that Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sub-sector - dominated strongly by MNCs - has been growing at unbelievably high rates of 10.97% y/y over the first 3 months of 2015. This is consistent with sector activity more than doubling in less than 7 years - a rate of expansion that consistent with a rapidly growing emerging economy, rather than with a mature economy. The Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sub-sector was responsible for 54.3% of total growth in GDP over 3Q 2015 and 39% of total growth in Irish GDP over the period of 1Q-3Q 2015. Again, these are simply incredible figures, suggesting high degree of distortions from MNCs accounting practices and, potentially, exchange rates changes.
  • Building and Construction sub-sector of Industry showed much more modest rates of growth, with 3Q 2015 y/y expansion at 3.49%, better than 1.52% growth recorded in 2Q 2015, but less than 7.8% growth in 3Q 2014. Construction sector contributed 1.47% to the overall gains in Irish GDP over 3Q period. For the first nine months of 2015, cumulative y/y growth in Building and Construction sub-sector output amounted to just EUR108 million (+3.09% y/y) which is three times slower in terms of the rates of growth recorded in the sub-sector over the same period of 2014.
  • Our third core conclusion, therefore, is that traditional activity - proxied by Building and Construction sub-sector is growing in Ireland at rates probably closer to 3.5-4 percent - appreciable and positive, but not as massive as 6.8% growth recorded by the sectoral GDP (GDP at factor cost).

Distribution Transport Software and Communication (DTSC) sector activity:

  • Distribution Transport Software and Communication sector activity grew at 8.28% y/y in 3Q 2015, which is slower than 11.2% growth recorded in 2Q 2015, but faster than 7.52% growth penned in 3Q 2014. The sector contributed EUR1.05 billion to GDP expansion in 3Q 2015 which amounts to 35.1% of the total growth in the GDP at factor cost. On the 9 months cumulative basis, Distribution Transport Software and Communication sector activity grew by EUR3.38 billion (+9.7% y/y) in 2015 compared to 2014.
  • Once again, robust rates of growth in the sector are most likely reflective of the shifting MNCs strategies relating to tax optimisation, plus, potentially, the effects of exchange rates changes.

Public Administration and Defence sector contribution to GDP at factor cost:

  • Public Administration and Defence sector activity shrunk 0.97% y/y in 3Q 2015, which is shallower contraction that -4.37% decline y/y in 2Q 2015 and -2.58% drop y/y in 3Q 2014. On a 9 months basis, Public Administration and Defence sector activity reduced our GDP at factor cost by EUR167 million (-3.59%). 
  • 3Q 2015 contraction in sector activity was the shallowest in 5 quarters.

Other Services (including Rent) sector activity:

  • Other Services (including Rent) activity rose 3.84% y/y in 3Q 2015, having previously posted 4.35% expansion in 2Q 2015 and 5.23% growth in 3Q 2014. 
  • The sector contributed 22.9% of total growth in GDP at factor cost in 3Q 2015. 

As chart above shows, GDP at factor cost posted rates of growth above 2012 - 3Q 2015 average in every quarter since Q1 2014. Also, since 1Q 2015, rates of growth have been running above pre-crisis period average (Q4 2002-Q4 2007).

All of this is good, with positive dynamics in trends:

However, growth by sources remains unbalanced and most likely reflects skew in favour of MNCs-led sub-sectors:

Key conclusions are:

  • Irish sectoral growth shows strong aggregate figures, with GDP at factor cost expansion over the first nine months of 2015 amounting to EUR8.831 billion (+6.91%) year on year, which is stronger than growth recorded over the same period of 2014 (EUR5.852 billion or +4.80% y/y).
  • Sectoral contribution to growth show continued evolution of unbalanced economy skewed in favour of MNCs-led sectors, with Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sector accounting for 38% of total growth recorded over the first nine months of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014, followed by Distribution Transport Software and Communication (38% share of total growth) and Other Services (including Rent) (+24% share). (Note: these shares add up to more than actual GDP at factor cost due to the ways in which CSO computes GDP at factor cost totals)
  • All indications are that despite the MNCs bias in the figures, domestic activity did improve and is currently running at higher rates than in 2Q 2015 and over the first nine months of 2014.

Stay tuned for more analysis. 

25/10/15: Grifols and the Ghosts of OECD

An interesting set of contrasts: one company, one move, two reports.

Last week, Irish and Spanish press reported on the Spanish Multinational pharma Grifols moving most of its operations from Spain to Ireland. Here are two examples of reports:
- One from Spain ( focusing on tax optimisation reasons behind the Grifols' move; and
- One from Ireland ( without a single mentioning of tax issues. You can also see this one from the Irish Examiner ( which also fails to mention tax issues.

Spanish report quotes Grifols CFO on the issue of tax optimisation. Irish reports say absolutely nada about the topic.

Spanish report references the statement that Grifols will channel all of its non-Spanish and non-US revenues via Ireland (a practice used for tax optimisation by many MNCs based here). But both Irish reports linked above fail to mention this quite material fact.

Remember OECD BEPS ‘reforms’? When someone doesn’t want to know the obvious, one doesn’t have to worry about the obvious…

25/3/15: As Bogus Is, Bogus Does… IMF on Irish MNCs-led Growth

The IMF has published its Article IV consultation paper for Ireland and I will be blogging more on this later today. For now the top-level issue that I have been covering for some time now and that has been at the crux of the problems with irish economic 'growth' data: the role of MNCs.

My most recent post on this matter is here:

IMF's Selected Issues paper published today alongside Article IV paper covers some of this in detail.

In dealing with the issues of technical challenges in estimating potential output in Ireland, the IMF states that "Irish GDP data volatility and revisions make it difficult to assess the cyclical position of the economy in the short-run. Ireland’s quarterly GDP growth data are among the most volatile of all European Union countries, more than twice the variability typically seen."

The IMF provides a handy chart:

And due to long lags in reporting final figures, as well as volatility, our GDP figures, even those reported, not just projected, are rather uncertain in their nature:

However, as IMF notes: other structural issues with the economy, besides poor reporting timing and quality and inherent volatility, further 'complicate' analysis:

"Multinational enterprises (MNE) accounting for one-quarter of Irish GDP can vary their output substantially with little change in domestic resource utilization. As shown in a recent study, MNEs represent only 2.1 percent of the number in enterprises in Ireland but slightly over half of the value added in the business economy. MNE output swings, sometimes related to sectoral idiosyncratic shocks (e.g., the “patent" cliff” in 2013...), can occur with little apparent change in
domestic resource utilization."

In other words, there is little tangible connection between output of many MNEs and the real economy. And the latest iteration of tax optimisation schemes deployed by the MNCs is not helping the matters: "The sharp increase in offshore contract manufacturing observed in 2014 is another example of such a shock. Such shocks to the productivity of the MNE sector may be best treated as shifts in potential GDP, because the result is a change in GDP without any significant change in resource tensions or slack in the

But MNCs are important for Ireland's tax base, right? Because apparently they are not that important for determining real rates of growth. Alas, the IMF has the following to say on that: "Swings in the value added of MNEs contribute substantially to variations in Irish GDP. Yet such swings are not found to have a significant effect on [government] revenues."

How big of an effect do MNCs have on the real economic growth as opposed to registered growth? IMF obliges: "The gross value added excluding the sectors dominated by MNEs behaves quite differently from aggregate GDP in some years. For example, in 2013 it grows by 3 percent at a time when official GDP data
were flat." In other words, the real, non-MNCs-led economy shrunk by roughly the amount of growth in the MNCs to result in near-zero growth across the official GDP.

However, since 2013 (over the course of 2014) a new optimisation scheme emerged as the dominant driver of manufacturing MNCs-led growth: contract manufacturing. IMF Article IV itself contains a handy box-out on that scheme, so important it is in distorting our GDP and GNP figures. Per IMF: "In 2014, multinational enterprises (MNEs) operating in Ireland made greater use of offshore
manufacturing under contract."

A handy CSO graphic illustrates what the hell IMF is talking about:

As covered in the link to my earlier blog post above, "Goods produced through contracted manufacturing agreements are treated differently in the national accounts than in customs measures of trade. As these goods do not cross the Irish border, they are not included in customs data on exports. If, however, the goods remain under the ownership of the Irish company, they are recorded as exports in the national accounts. Payments for manufacturing services and patent and royalty payments are service imports in the national accounts, offsetting in part the positive GDP impact of contracted manufacturing."

And to confirm my conclusions, here is IMF on the impact of contract manufacturing (just ONE scheme of many MNCs employ in Ireland) on Irish growth figures: "Contracted manufacturing appears to have had a significant impact on GDP growth in 2014 although it is difficult to make a precise estimate. Customs data on goods exports rose by 2.8 percent y/y in volume terms in the first nine months of 2014. In contrast, national accounts data on exports rose 12 percent in the same period. The gap between these two export measures can be attributed in part to contracted production, but could also reflect other factors like warehousing (goods produced in Ireland but stored and sold overseas) and valuation effects." Note: I cover this in more detail in my post.

"Assuming conservatively that contract manufacturing accounted for about half of the difference between customs and national accounts data, the implied gross contribution to GDP growth in the first three quarters of 2014 from contract manufacturing is 2 percentage points. However, there is a need to take into account the likelihood that service imports were higher than otherwise, but it is not possible to identify the volume of additional service imports linked to contract manufacturing."

One scheme by MNCs accounts for more than 2/5ths of the entire Irish 'miracle of growth'. Just one scheme!

And now… to the punchline:

Update: Seamus Coffey commented on the 2013 figure for domestic (real) economy cited above with an interesting point of view, also relating to the broader issue of the Contract Manufacturing: and his blogpost on the subject is here: