Professional services firm EY Ireland has agreed its first ever acquisition, snapping up DKM Economic Consultants for an undisclosed sum. DKM was founded in 1981 and was previously owned by stockbroker Davy before being bought out by its management team in 2006.

EY partner Shane MacSweeney said that Ireland is at an interesting economic crossroads at the moment, as on the one hand it has the fastest growing economy in the euro zone but on the other hand it is facing significant uncertainty around Brexit, geopolitics and wider technological disruption. EY's clients are operating in this dynamic environment and are grappling with these uncertainties, according to Mr MacSweeney, who adds that the questions coming from the company's clients are becoming more complex. The questions include such issues as how will Brexit affect a company, what will wage inflation look like over the coming years and what skills will be available and they cover a public sector perspective as well as governmental policy issues. 

Shane MacSweeney said EY believes that these complex and challenging questions will be better answered through more detailed economic analysis and detailed economic forecasting. This is one of the reasons why EY has significantly expanded its economic advisory offering with today's acquisition, he added.

Today's deal marks EY's first in the Irish marketplace and Mr MacSweeney said the company was very excited about the acquisition of DKM. He said the pace of change at the moment warranted an acquisition to be able to make a step change and through today's deal EY will be able to make that step change in the Irish marketplace. He said that DKM brings with it a lot of expertise and the company is a well known and well respected brand in the Irish market place.

Accenture recently acquired advertising agency Rothco and Mr MacSweeney predicted that 2018 and 2019 will see a big change in the number of acquisitions carried out. He said that EY globally agreed 13 acquisitions deals last year, ranging from data analytics companies to strategy houses to economic advisory houses - like DKM. 

MORNING BRIEFS - There were 874 corporate insolvencies last year in Ireland, down from over 1,000 in 2016 and around half the peak level seen during the recession in 2012 according to figures compiled by Deloitte.

*** Petrol prices at the end of December had reached their highest level since August 2015. The AA Ireland monthly survey shows the price of a litre of petrol was 138.3 cent. Diesel was 127.1 cent per litre, its highest level of 2017. 

*** The Irish economy has moved past its recovery phase and has enough strength and momentum to shrug off the impact of Brexit in 2018, according to a bullish forecast from employers representative group Ibec. In its latest economic outlook Ibec says the current phase of growth is more sustainable than the the Celtic Tiger era as it is based on business investment rather than being fuelled by excessive borrowing.

*** Shares in retailer Mothercare have lost a quarter of their value on the London Stock Exchange this morning as the company issued a profit warning following a weak festive trading period. The chain saw sales in its home market, the UK, fall due to lower footfall and a decline in consumer spending it said. Online sales were 7% lower over the 12 weeks to the end of December than in the previous year.

*** The Mothercare story is part of a wider trend according to Visa's UK consumer spending index. It said that spending was 0.3% lower in 2017, which represented the first annual fall in spend since 2012. Visa said that UK consumers are feeling the pinch from higher inflation. The rate at which prices are rising, largely due to weaker sterling making imports more expensive for British shoppers, is outstripping average wage growth.