Saturday 16 December 2017

What it says in the papers: business pages

Paul O'Donoghue

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

Irish Independent

***The State’s budgetary watchdog has backed the Government’s push for a relaxation of EU budget rules to allow it to spend more.

The Government wants the rules on how much Ireland can spend to be softened ahead of the next Budget because of the faster than expected recovery.

Budget 2016 will be the last before the general election, and the Government has flagged the possibility of cutting taxes.

***IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has taken a swipe at US billionaire Donald Trump and Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson for their criticism of the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.

“I would be more interested by the interventions of those in Ireland who understand the issue,” he said.

Mr Walsh also said he’s in no hurry to seal a deal on Aer Lingus. But he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding a potential sale could be a distraction for management at the former flag carrier.

***The first three months of this year has been the busiest on record for sales of hotels, as investors pile into the sector.

According to a report from property broker CBRE, the value of hotels sold between January and March in Ireland topped €500m.

The CBRE report claims that 25 hotels were sold over 17 separate deals during the period.

Irish Times

***Irish drinks giant C&C is actively considering selling off its UK cider business, according to one of the company’s shareholders.

The Irish Times reports that New York-based business consultants Third Avenue Management, who bought a small stake in C&C earlier in the year, told its clients in a briefing note that the company is looking at how to address its problems in England and Wales where it suffers from poor distribution.

The note said: “The company is actively evaluating solutions to address these issues, which could take several shapes including an acquisition, a partnership or a divestiture of the UK business altogether.”

***The Government's proposal to privatise 10pc of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann routes has the potential to save taxpayers’ money, according to Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.

However, the proposals could lead to strikes in the State transport sector.

Both Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union will ballot bus drivers for strike action after talks at the Labour Relations Court broke down earlier in the week.

***There is no decision yet to allow a British sports consultancy to run a yacht racing hub in Cork harbour, according to Defence Minister Simon Coveney.

Fianna Fail Finance spokesman Michael McGrath has previously expressed concern that only one company, Five Degrees West, has been involved with the plan to run an ocean racing yacht hub on Haulbowline island in Cork harbour.

Mr Coveney told the Irish Times that the yacht racing proposal was “one element” of a grand plan for Haulbowline island, which is currently undergoing a multi-million euro cleanup.

Irish Examiner

***Swiss-Irish bakery group Aryzta yesterday revealed that it is set to spend almost €450m to buy just under half of France’s Picard group.

The company said it has entered into exclusive negotiations for a strategic investment with Lion Capital in speciality premium French food business Picard. Under the terms of the agreement, Aryzta will acquire a 49pc shareholding in Picard for €446.6m.

The announcement comes just days after the company raised €404m after it sold off a large stake in Irish agricultural services business Origin Enterprises.

***Bolt-on acquisitions, new product lines and innovation are all on the menu for Carroll Cuisine, as its new owners target growth in the business.

Private equity fund Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI) has backed a management buyout of Tullamore-based Carroll Cuisine from Aryzta which values the company at €40m. The deal will see CCI and Carroll’s existing management team, headed by chief executive Kieran Carolan, acquire Swiss-Irish food giant Aryzta’s stake in the business.

***It is unclear what the effect on Kingfisher’s Irish business will be as the company announced that it is closing 60 of its B&Q stores in the UK and Ireland over the next two years.

New chief executive Veronique Laury announced the closure of 15pc of B&Q's floor space yesterday at a cost of just under €500m but did not give details of which outlets would be affected.

Kevin O’Byrne, head of B&Q UK and Ireland, is also to step down as part of a wider restructuring process. The company has eight stores in Ireland.

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