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What it says in the papers: business pages

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Here are the main business stories from this morning's papers:

Irish Independent

***The ESB will have had the same auditor for nearly 90 years, after it extended its contract with KPMG until 2017.

The utility has used KPMG and its predecessor firms as its external auditor since it was set up in 1927. ESB re-hired KPMG after a tender process in 2012 on a three-year contract.

However in a note to the ESB annual report for 2014, the company said it has exercised an option to retain KPMG for a further two years until the 2017 financial year. The move means ESB will have had the same firm auditing its accounts for at least 89 years.

***One of IAG’s biggest competitors will ask the EU for guarantees it will be able to compete for Irish passengers ahead of any takeover of Aer Lingus.

Virgin Atlantic, which has fought numerous bitter battles with IAG’s British Airways, will meet the Government this week to highlight its concerns about the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.

Virgin has told the Oireachtas Transport Committee it wants a legally binding commitment on the number of BA and Aer Lingus flights between Ireland and the UK.

***Ireland will see the number of dairy farms actually drop, even as milk production soars.

The country is set to produce an extra two billion litres of milk a year by 2020 as the shackles of milk quotas are finally cast off. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has predicted there will be an extra 300,000 cows in the national herd, bringing the total to over 1.3 million by 2020.

However, though every area of the country will see an upsurge in production, experts agree it won’t be evenly spread, with some areas profiting more than others – and there’ll be fewer farmers producing it.

Irish Times

***A majority of voters are opposed to the State selling its share of Aer Lingus to British carrier IAG, a new Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI has shown.

The results show that 54pc of those polled thought that the Government should not sell its stake in the iconic Irish airline,  while 24pc were in favour of the sale and 22pc had no opinion.

***The battle  for control of Dublin retailer Arnotts is set to intensify in the coming weeks as a leading UK private equity group has teamed up with one of the firm’s two rival shareholders.

BlueGem Capital, a UK private equity company that has owns upmarket London department store Liberty, has joined forces with Apollo Capital, a US group that owns 50pc of Arnotts.

The UK company is believed to be set to invest in Arnotts and the paper reports that Apollo and its partners are due to hold talks with Fitzwilliam Finance Partners in the coming weeks, which is the other shareholder in the Dublin retailer.

***Permanent TSB paid out about €1m in commission payments last year to staff in dozens of its branches for hitting sales targets, the Irish Times reports.

The paper says that the largely state owned bank gave out €1m to workers in 64 of its Irish branches when they reached agreed targets for the sale of financial products.

Individual workers received payments of as much as €4,500 per person while bank managers received even larger sums. A spokesman told the newspaper that the payments were not bonuses, saying that they were commissions which have been part staff salaries since before the financial crash.

 

Irish Examiner

***The Stryker Corporation, one of the world’s leading medical technology firms, is to create hundreds of new jobs with a multi-million euro investment in Cork, the Irish Examiner reports.

According to the newspaper, the company is to formally announce plans to build a global centre of excellence at Carrigtwohill this week. The company currently employs around 1,200 people in Ireland including 700 at two IDA sites in Carrigtwohill with a further 500 employed at a factory in Raheen, Limerick.

The paper reports that part of the remit of the new plant will be to build hip and knee replacements with 3D laser printing technology.

***Irish renewable energy firm Gaelectric has acquired interests in two wind energy projects at an estimated cost of between €10m and €15m and is currently negotiating on several other acquisition targets.

The firm has taken over the planned Ballybay Wind Farm, Co Kilkenny from ART Generation and has also bought a 50pc stake in Cnoc Wind Farm at Grange, Co Tipperary.

Speaking to the newspaper, the head of Gaelectric’s wind energy division Barry Gavin said “At this point in our journey we have made good progress and are in active discussion on a number of suitable acquisition prospects.

***One of the largest shareholders in Swiss building materials group Holcim has rejected the merger offer made by French rival Lafarge that would see the two create the world’s largest building materials company.

Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung reports that Russian businessman Filaret Galchev, Holcim’s second largest shareholder with a nearly 11pc stake, views the offer as "not satisfactory and half-baked", citing an unnamed source described as a Galchev confidant.

The news appears to throw CRH’s deal with the merged entity into doubt. CRH  was to acquire €6.5bn worth of assets from the combined Holcim-Lafarge entity.

Financial Times

**Tensions in the Middle East rose yesterday as Arab leaders announced a joint military force as Saudi fighters clashed with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Financial Times reports.

According to the newspaper, the plans by the Arab League showed the determination of Middle Eastern Sunni nations to combat what they view as Iran’s expanding influence in the region.

he news comes as Iran and six world powers tried to break an impasse in nuclear negotiations on Sunday, with the two sides explored compromises in areas including numbers of centrifuges used to enrich uranium that Iran could operate, and its nuclear enrichment work for medical research.

***Europe’s biggest companies have increased payouts to shareholders by the largest annual amount since the start of the financial crisis, the Financial Times also reports.

According to analysis by financial information firm Markit, regular dividends from the Eurofirst 300 companies amounted to €187.3bn in 2014, up by more than 10pc on the €169bn in 2013.

However, the data provider is now predicting a slight slowdown of nearly 7pc to €200bn for 2015.

 

Online Editors