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What it says in the papers: business pages


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

Irish Independent

*Aer Lingus enjoyed a €13m jump in sales last year thanks to a deal with Virgin to lease planes and crew to the British airline.

The agreement was made as Virgin Atlantic tried to create a short-haul airline to sell tickets for travel between towns and cities in Britain.

Virgin leased planes from Aer Lingus which it then flew under its own Little Red label. Aer Lingus repainted four of its Airbus aircraft in Little Red livery under the deal.

*Ireland’s biggest shopping centre has been told it cannot go ahead with a one-million-square-foot expansion because of flood fears for neighbouring shops and houses.

The owners of Dundrum Town Centre have been refused planning permission to extend the shopping centre, despite getting permission just over five years ago.

Now, the officials at Dún Laoghaire Rathdown have turned down an application from developer Joe O’Reilly, whose Chartered Land built the shopping centre during the Celtic Tiger era.

*US-based International Paper is considering an €8.1bn takeover of Dublin-listed Smurfit Kappa, according to weekend media reports.

Tennessee-based International Paper is “believed to be exploring a bid” for Smurfit Kappa at €36 a share, according to at least one report. International Paper is reported to have hired Deutsche Bank to help with the bid.

Irish Times

*AIB is the most likely bank in the state to pursue customers through the courts for unpaid debts, according to the Irish Times.

An analysis carried out by the paper of official court records reveal that the State-owned bank is more than twice as likely as its main rival, Bank of Ireland, to file High Court actions against debtors.

As of the end of last week AIB had filed at least 275 summary judgements since the start of the year against customers with unpaid debts. This compared with 140 cases for Bank of Ireland and 33 cases for Danske Bank.

*Gross domestic product will expand 5.4pc this year, business lobby group Ibec has forecast in its latest economic report.

Ibec predicted growth of 4.8pc just three months ago. While Ibec tends to be among the most optimistic watchers of the Irish economy, its recent predictions have often been closer to reality than many other organisations.

Ibec said a combination of favourable exchange rates, quantitative easing and lower oil prices will push growth higher and push unemployment below 9pc this year.

*An initiative that allows customers of KBC Bank who are in mortgage arrears or pre-arrears to receive free financial advice and negotiation services has been extended by the bank and the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO), according to the Irish Times.

The service, which was first launched in March of last year, has been extended for a further 12 months.

The initiative allows KBC mortgage holders independent financial advice on their arrears and are also facilitated in negotiations with the bank. It is conducted in association with the IMHO.

Irish Examiner

*Plans by the government to bail out struggling mortgage homeowners with taxpayer funds would be “letting banks off the hook”, according to Fianna Fail Finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

The Government is considering offering financial assistance to struggling homeowners. It recently emerged that as many as 1,000 mortgage holders face being thrown out of their homes in court cases this week while Central Bank figures suggest that 31,000 people could find themselves in the same position.

*The rate of growth in construction activity quickened slightly in March after slowing for four successive months. New orders also increased at a faster pace and business sentiment picked up, according to the latest survey of the sector by Ulster Bank.

The weak euro contributed to the strongest increase in input prices in eight years, the survey added.

While the sector is picking up, the rate of expansion was weaker than 2014.

*The Irish arm of British multinational consultancy firm WS Atkins saw its pre-tax  profits plummet from almost €400,000 in 2013 to just €542 in the 12 months to the end of March of last year.

Despite this operating profit saw just a marginal decline, from €2.35m to €2.348m.

The directors’ report said that “having traded through the very difficult years of the recession, the company has begun to grow again”.

Online Editors