Business Person of the Month

June 2013: Robert Finnegan, CEO, Three Ireland

By Business & Finance
01 July 2013
Robert Finnegan, Three
Ian Hyland, publisher, Business & Finance; Kieran Duff, partner, MERC Partners; Robert Finnegan, CEO, Three Ireland.

Three is Ireland’s largest high speed network and fastest growing mobile operator. In June this year, the mobile communications company announced it is to buy leading competitor O2 in an €850mn deal that will make it the second largest player in the market. The man in charge is Robert Finnegan.

The deal will initially see Three pay €780mn for the Spanish telecoms company Telefonica’s Irish operations, with a €70mn payment deferred until O2 meet certain targets. The purchase is dependent on competition approval and could take between six and nine months to go through.

Upon completion, Three Ireland will have around two million customers, combined revenues of over €800mn and a near 40% share of Ireland’s mobile telecommunications market.

Leading force

Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three, has successfully positioned the company as the driving force for change in the Irish telecommunications market.

Revenues at Three grew by 16% to €174mn in 2012, following a 53% revenue growth in 2011, which reflects higher sales of smartphones and a higher customer base. Three have a track record of firsts for consumers — first to launch mobile broadband in Ireland and are now the mobile broadband leader.

Three were also the first to introduce innovative price plans like FlexiFix and of course, brought you ‘All You Can Eat Data’ before any other operator.

According to the company, Three’s challenger brand credentials are what make them the fastest growing network in Ireland. So far, Three has invested over €800mn in building its network and it continues to invest as its customer base grows.

In December 2008, Three won the Government contract to roll-out broadband services to the remaining 10% of the country without adequate broadband. Now, thanks to Three, many consumers and businesses in rural Ireland are connected to broadband.

In August 2010, Three became the lead sponsor of the Irish national football team and has an agreement with the FAI to support all the national teams until 2016. Three also works with the grassroots of football and supports a range of other sports and teams countrywide including Limerick’s UL Bohs, Waterford GAA and Waterford FC.

Global operator

Three is 100% owned by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (HWL), a renowned multinational conglomerate committed to innovation and technology. Its diverse businesses employ over a quarter of a million people in 52 countries worldwide. HWL’s operations range from some of the world’s biggest port operators and retailers, to property development and infrastructure, to innovative telecommunications and data services. HWL is a leading global operator of mobile telecommunications and data services and a major owner and operator of fibre-optic fixed-line networks in Hong Kong. Hutchison Whampoa is controlled by Li Ka-shing, one of the world’s most successful businessmen.

Hutchison Whampoa previously owned and ran the Orange network globally before moving into 3G services worldwide under the Three brand operating in UK, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Macau and Sweden.


A qualified accountant from Waterford, Finnegan has worked for other Hutchison Whampoa businesses for 13 years before joining Three. There, he served as CEO of its beverage division, Watson’s, which employed 3,000 people and had an annual turnover of $200mn. Prior to his role as CEO at Watson’s, Finnegan held positions as financial controller and finance and strategic planning director at Hutchison for six years. He has also held senior finance roles at Lyons Tetley and Procter & Gamble.

Merc logoBusiness & Finance, Business Person of the Month

Business & Finance, in association with MERC Partners, has been rewarding excellence in business through the ‘Business Person of the Month’ award over the last number of years. These awards seek to recognise noteworthy achievements in business leadership, and particularly those that make a telling contribution to the wider business community in Ireland.