Germany – a Land of Opportunity for Irish Companies…Shannon Chamber Seminar Hears

Celebrating Irish-German business connections at the Shannon Chamber seminar (front l-r): John Bowe, Mazars Ireland; Ronan Harbison, German-Irish Chamber of Industry; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; Gerry Vahey, Mazars Ireland.

Back (l-r): Michael Guinee, Ei Electronics, Kevin Thompstone, the Thompstone Group; Conor McCarthy, Padraig Nolan and Trevor Charsley, Afex Global Payments and Risk Management Solutions; and Mairéad Divilly, Mazars Ireland. Photo: Eamon Ward.


Any decision by Irish companies to expand internationally should factor in the German market as a potential for distribution or expansion. That was the clear message emanating from a highly informative seminar organised last week by Shannon Chamber in association with the German-Irish Chamber of Industry of Commerce.


The seminar, which also involved speakers from Mazars Ireland and London-based Afex Global Payments and Risk Management Solutions, provided attendees with a very insightful appreciation of the compliance, tax and funding issues associated with moving into new export markets.


In addressing attendees, the commercial director of the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ronan Harbison, said that Germany is a land of opportunity for Irish companies. With the advent of Brexit, he said that it would be even more important for Irish companies to look towards Germany, one of Europe’s biggest markets, where Ireland’s very positive business attitude is highly regarded.


However, he cautioned companies to seriously consider how they would structure themselves in making such a move.


“Germany is not one autonomous country; it has fourteen states so it is difficult to have a national distributor covering the entire county. With 15,000 German companies classified as SMEs, employing between 10 and 250 people, it is imperative to get insights into the market before making any concrete decision about expansion,” he added.


This sentiment was qualified by Mick Guinee of Ei Electronics, whose links with Germany date back to 1996.  


“When investing in any market you need the get the basics right, be innovative and patient,” he said.


The key to Ei’s success in the German market has been its decision to sell directly, offer a high level of service,  be innovative and undertake in-country training.


“Germany is a good market and Ireland is an acceptable brand there,” he stated.


Speakers from Mazars Ireland covered the very practical issues associated with expanding into international markets.


Partner Mairéad Divilly outlined the compliance obligations associated with foreign jurisdictions and the critical issues such as legal requirements, recruitment and employment contracts, visas, bookkeeping and accounting, banking arrangements and tax compliance that a company needs to be familiar with.


Tax Partner Gerry Vahey advised attendees how to structure for growth, finance an expanded operation, repatriate profits and transfer pricing, while corporate finance expert John Bowe said that with many different types and sources of funding growth in a business, companies need to be careful to choose the right type of funding for the right project and have a well-prepared business plan in place before approaching funders.
Foreign exchange specialist Trevor Charsley, from Afex, who flew in from London for the seminar, said that any company trading overseas will be exposed to foreign exchange and needs to manage that risk to protect its bottom line and have time to adapt to market changes.


Referring to Brexit, he said: “With Ireland exporting 16% goods and 19% services to the UK, exports to the UK will be more expensive but, Ireland should focus on getting as much business as possible from the Brexit changes and be focused on what London-based multinationals are doing.”


“Afex will be opening an office in Ireland,” he added. 


Quick to react to this comment, Shannon Chamber’s chief executive Helen Downes extolled the virtues of setting up in Shannon, particularly the ease of doing business and the lack of congestion.


Commenting on the event, Ms Downes added: “What we learnt from this event is that companies need to do their homework and spend time getting to know the market(s) they are seeking to enter. Once they do it right, and get it right, they will succeed.”


Describing Ei’s Mick Guinee as an exemplar of this approach and a ‘hidden champion’ for manufacturing in Shannon and Ireland, she had one message for any company seeking to expand overseas:


“Just do it. If you believe in it, go after it.”


With 78 Chambers in Germany and with membership of the Chamber compulsory for every company, the Germany-Irish Chamber of Industry of Commerce is the ideal first link for any company considering expansion into the German market. Shannon Chamber will act as the initial conduit for introductions and fostering connects via this very beneficial channel.


Note: A copy of all presentations delivered at the seminar are available on request.