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TH€ PUNT: US a cold house for Kingspan

Cavan-based insulation maker Kingspan has had a tough time in the US over the years.

It sued the seller of access flooring company Tate, which it acquired in 2000 for about $120m (€93.4m). The vendor made representations and warranties that Kingspan later said were misrepresented and incorrect.

The Irish firm was subsequently awarded about $40m in an arbitration award. But things haven't always gone its way in the courtroom.

This year it lost a case in London where it sought substantial damages against a supplier of plastic that was used to make domestic oil and water tanks.

Back in the US, Kingspan has just launched a lawsuit in Texas, but it's small fry this time around.

It says it's owed about $80,000 (€62,000) from a subcontractor and is also holding others, including Boston-based insurance firm Liberty Mutual, accountable.

It's all related to a $600m makeover of the Corpus Christi Army Depot and Naval Air Station in Texas. Kingspan is arguing that a subcontractor received more products from Kingspan than paid for.

The real winners so far have been Kingspan's lawyers on the case -- a "reasonable fee" for their services already and to be rendered is about $26,500, according to the firm. Kingspan releases quarterly results later this month.

Ulster can't afford to leave

THINGS aren't getting any easier for the banks. After executives from Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland had been raked over the coals in the Oireachtas earlier this week, it was Ulster Bank's turn in the spotlight yesterday.

This time it was in the form of its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland, posting another set of grim results, this time for the third quarter.

Ulster's figures told the same story of past quarters. At an operating level it is performing decently but provisions against losses and the technology glitch which stopped customers accessing their accounts for more than a fortnight in June and July have cost it dearly.

The bank, headed up by chief executive Jim Brown, has faced persistent questions about its future plans for Ireland in recent months, with speculation mounting that it could be preparing to leave the Irish market altogether.

A number of overseas lenders, most notably Bank of Scotland (Ireland) have left and are just maintaining their loan books here. Could Ulster follow them?

The bank won't comment other than to say it has a "strategy in place to address its cost to income ratio which remains too high".

If RBS does want to pull Ulster Bank out of Ireland, it would have to deal with the astronomical costs associated with winding the business up.

Unlike BOSI, which was a relative newcomer to Ireland, Ulster was set up here in 1836, employs 6,000 people and has about 1.9 million customers. The cost of closing a business of that scale probably prohibits any shutdown -- no matter how much RBS would like to do it.

Distressing balancing act

FOR many a businessman, the prospect of buying a distressed asset is a juicy one and one worth chasing.

You'd most likely get it at a knock-down price, leaving you to swoop in, restructure it, and be left with the potential option of selling it on at a more favourable price at a later date.

Others just like the challenge of taking on a struggling company that they can put their own stamp on.

There is rarely a shortage of interested parties.

They talk up the prospect of saving jobs, but they invariably want only the good in the business.

They want nothing to do with the debt.

One party that expressed interest in Cappoquin Poultry, which was put into examinership in August, offered just that.

The challenge for those charged with finding a buyer is to find the right balance that appeases creditors and secures a future for the business.

IBRC keeps its own pot full

The irony has not gone amiss. The fact that the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation -- formerly Anglo Irish Bank -- is the only one of Ireland's leading semi-state and private companies to have a fully funded pension pot will annoy those whose pensions have gone to tatters

Many defined benefit schemes are facing insolvency, and companies have been left trying to plug the black hole. The survey by Lane Clark & Peacock Ireland also revealed the IBRC had consistently reported a fully funded defined benefit pension scheme since the study began four years ago.

The obvious inference to take from the findings is that the bank was closely guarding its own money while wasting everyone else's.

Irish Independent