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Deutsche Bank settles four-year 'toxic' loan row with French town

DEUTSCHE Bank has settled a four-year-old "toxic" loan spat with Saint-Etienne, a centuries-old town in France's Massif Central region.

French towns, with toxic loans of as much as €17bn from before the global financial crisis in 2008, are putting pressure on banks ahead of 36,000 mayoral elections in March.

But Saint-Etienne's woes are not over as other banks aren't playing ball, its mayor said.

"Deutsche Bank was in a constructive mindset," said Mayor Maurice Vincent, who also heads the national association of cities and counties plagued by risky loans.

"We had room for discussions, which is still not the case in most disputes between banks and local authorities."

Banks, including Dexia SA's defunct French unit, face legal disputes on more than 300 loans made to local authorities, representing as much as €10bn.

Towns from Asnieres to Saint-Etienne borrowed money from banks, signing contracts they say they did not always understand.

Saint-Etienne's contract with Deutsche Bank, for example, was pegged to the exchange rate between the British pound and the Swiss franc.

The settlement, Saint-Etienne's first with Deutsche Bank, marks an end to a row that had prompted the town to stop paying the Frankfurt-based lender since 2010.



BUSINESS, finance, energy and tourism leaders will come together next week for the British Irish Chamber of Commerce annual conference.

Politicians from Ireland and across the UK will also join forces for the event, to be held in the Titanic Centre, Belfast, on Thursday February 13.

Chief executive of the chamber, Steve Aiken, said the theme this year is 'growing stronger together'.

"In that context the considerable opportunities for the British and Irish economies and the challenges surrounding access to investment will be considered, as indeed will issues such as the future of Britain in Europe and supporting economic development in Northern Ireland," he said.

The morning session will be addressed by minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin, below, and a senior UK government figure.

A senior leaders' debate will be staged that afternoon between Anna Malmhake of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, the ESB's Pat O'Doherty and Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland.



APPLE and Google have said they are tired of being slapped with frivolous patent suits that cost millions of dollars in legal fees and are asking the US Supreme Court to let them hit back.

The rival tech giants are leading a group of companies urging the court to make it easier to collect attorneys' fees from patent-holders who lose infringement suits.

In two cases to be argued this month, the justices for the first time will consider the rules that govern fee awards in patent litigation.

Apple and Google have both been sued more than 190 times in the past five years by "patent-assertion entities," companies that get most of their revenue from patent licensing and enforcement, according to the research firm PatentFreedom.

For every case that reaches court, Apple says, it gets dozens of letters demanding royalties.

"Technology companies are seeing an onslaught of patent claims," said Charlene Morrow, a Mountain View, California, patent lawyer with Fenwick & West, which represents some of Silicon Valley's biggest businesses.



SHARES in luxury goods company Michael Kors surged the most in almost two years after posting profit that topped analysts' estimates and raising its forecast.

Shares in the company, founded by the designer of the same name, rose 17pc to $89.91 (€66.52) at the close in New York for the biggest gain since last February. The shares jumped 59pc in 2013.

Michael Kors boosted its full-year sales and profit forecasts after customers in Europe and in North America bought more of its products, which include accessories, footwear, watches and jewellery.

Profit for the year ahead will be as much as $3.09 a share, up from a previous forecast of a maximum of $2.81 a share, the Hong Kong-based company said. Analysts projected $2.82.

Earnings per share in the quarter to the end of December totalled $1.11, and revenue increased 59pc to $1bn, the company said.

Revenue rose 51pc in North America and more than doubled in Europe in the quarter, Michael Kors said. Sales at stores open at least a year increased 28pc.



IRISH Life has declined to comment on what threatened industrial action by its staff will mean for customers.

The life assurance business participated in talks at the Labour Relations Commission yesterday, after staff members who are part of Unite union voted for industrial action over pay issues on January 30.

Staff are understood to have been angered by a decision on pay freezes made late last year.

Irish Life only recently returned to private ownership after it was bought for €1.3bn last year by Canadian finance group Great-West Lifeco.

"The matter has now been referred to the Labour Relations Commission and we look forward to participating in the process, in which we are fully engaged.

"Any speculation on outcomes at this stage would be inappropriate" said a statement from the company.

Irish Life provides life assurance, pensions and investment management services to about 1m Irish customers.

Irish Independent