THE IRISH Stock Exchange's headline index rose by 33.6pc last year, new data from the organisation shows, its best year since 1997. A comparison with other indices shows that the ISEQ Overall Index was the best performing index in Western Europe during 2013, ahead of key indices such as the FTSE100 (which rose 14.4pc) and the German DAX (up 25.5pc). It also outperformed the leading US indices, the S&P 500 (up 24.4pc) and NASDAQ (which rose 32.8pc), in what was a good year overall for global equity markets.
The index was boosted by three stock market flotations in the last quarter – that of drill maker Mincon, gaming company GameAccount Network and property investor Hibernia REIT. The number of equity trades that took place during the year, some 3.4m deals, was also the highest ever number in the ISE's history, and over 40pc higher than 2012.
FASTNET RECEIVES EXTENSION FOR MOROCCAN SITE
IRISH-owned mining company Fastnet Oil and Gas has received an extension of its exploration licence at a site off the coast of Morocco. The Foum Assaka licence will be extended for 30 months to June 2016, during which time one exploration well must be drilled. Fastnet managing director Paul Griffiths said the company would now work with its joint venture partners to develop a drilling programme. The company's costs, he added, will be covered.
"On receipt of all regulatory approvals and completion of the farm-out agreement with SK Innovation, Fastnet will be carried through its share of drilling costs for the initial Foum Assaka commitment well, as previously announced, and in any follow-up appraisal well in the event of a discovery," he said.
The news comes less than a week after the company revealed it had received an extension on two licence options in the Celtic Sea, off the south coast.
UDG SELLS THREE BUSINESSES AFTER REVIEW
UDG has sold three businesses for £23.5m in an effort to re-focus on its core activities, following a strategic review by the Irish drug distrubtor. They are being sold to US business Professional Compounding Centers of America. Two of the businesses produce "specials", which are unlicensed drugs made for community pharmacies and hospital markets in the UK. These are Specials Laboratory Holdings, and Craig and Hayward. The third company is called Arjun Products, which offers a range of dermatology creams and mineral supplements.
"While the group believes that these businesses have the potential to deliver strong growth over the coming years, following a strategic review it has been decided that the manufacture and distribution of specials falls outside the group's core areas of operation," said a company statement." Davy Stockbrokers said the sale would free up cash for UDG to allocate to core businesses Ashfield and Sharp.
EUROZONE OUTPUT DOWN 0.7PC IN DECEMBER
EUROZONE industrial output fell more than expected in December, new data shows, but probably not by enough to have stopped economic growth from picking up slightly in the last three months of the year.
Industrial output in the 17 countries sharing the euro in December fell 0.7pc on the month, after a downwardly revised 1.6pc rise in November, Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency, said yesterday.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected only a 0.3pc fall in December.
The production decrease was driven mainly by a 2.1pc fall in output of energy and capital goods.
But economists said that on average, in the last three months of 2013, eurozone industrial production was 0.3pc higher quarter-on-quarter than in the previous three months.
"The disappointing industrial production has no impact on our eurozone growth forecasts," said Marco Valli, chief eurozone economist at UniCredit. "Some of the weakness was probably due to the soft winter weather, pushing down energy production by 2.1pc," said Peter Vanden Houte, an analyst with ING.
PRADA MISSES TARGETS SET BY INDUSTRY EXPERTS
SALES at Italian fashion house Prada have come in below analyst expectations. Revenues were up just 9pc in the year ended January 31 to €3.59bn, preliminary figures show, hurt by economic weakness in Europe and a stronger euro. Prada, which makes luxury handbags, shoes, eyewear and Miu Miu-branded dresses, is tentatively scheduled to give a full, audited earnings report on April 2.
Sales climbed 11pc in America and rose 5pc in Europe amid the "difficult economic environment" and a stronger euro, the company said. Greater China, which has been a major focus for investors as a crackdown on corruption and conspicuous consumption has hurt sales for many luxury goods sellers, contributed €826m. The Hong Kong-listed Prada Group opened 79 new stores last year, bringing the number of directly operated stores to 540. Chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli said that he's confident of further progress this year.