Sunday 25 February 2018

What it says in the papers: business pages

Paul O'Donoghue

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

Irish Independent

***Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan will announce his shock resignation this morning. The departure will leave Finance Minister Michael Noonan with the headache of seeking a successor to one of the most important posts in the country.

Prof Honohan (65) plans to leave the Central Bank towards the end of the year – more than a year before he was due to retire.

The former TCD academic is widely credited with taking difficult and sometimes controversial decisions  during the financial crisis – including the first official admission a bailout for Ireland was inevitable.

***Former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet has rejected claims that the ECB blackmailed Ireland by forcing it into a bailout programme.

In a much anticipated appearance in Dublin yesterday, Mr Trichet said the Frankfurt-based body had given Ireland tremendous support during the crisis, more than any other country in Europe.

And he insisted neither he nor the ECB knew anything about the “thunderbolt” that was the bank guarantee of September 2008, having learned about it through the media.

***The European Commission looks set to tighten its grip over how US internet giants do business in Europe, with new rules likely on how they collect and make money from data.

The move comes two weeks after the European authority announced a formal investigation into whether Google is abusing its monopoly position in the European online search market.

A new draft of the Commission’s so-called ‘digital single market’ initiative proposes a widening of the kind of data-collection processes it will judge.

Irish Times

***The chief executive of IDA Ireland has said that a Yes vote in the upcoming marriage equality referendum would be a positive result for Irish business.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Martin Shanahan said: “Many of our clients are on record on this matter here and in the US in particular where obviously the debate also is going on at state level.

“We have seen the business community here advocating a Yes vote, saying that a Yes vote would be good for Ireland, good for business, good for the individual.”

***Mining firm Kenmare Resources could be acquired for knock-down bid of A$371m (€265m) by Australian firm Iluka, marking an end to its 30 years of Irish ownership.

Kenmare said that the proposed terms of a possible takeover are subject to a significant number of pre-conditions, and that there’s no certainty a formal offer will be made. But the board of Kenmare Resources told investors that it would be in the interests of shareholders to work towards sealing a takeover deal.

Last year, Kenmare rejected an indicative offer that would have valued the Irish company at over €500m.

***The chairman of Fyffes has said that shareholders in rival banana firm Chiquita made the wrong choice in deciding to reject a merger between the two companies.

The $1bn deal that would have seen the Irish firm and the US company merge to create the world’s largest banana company broke down when shareholders of Chiquita were instead wooed by Brazilian rival Cutrale-Safra.

Speaking to the Irish Times Fyffes chairman David McCann said: “They [Chiquita shareholders] didn’t recognise the value of our transaction which, we think, would have given them a better outcome over the longer term.”

Irish Examiner

***Ulster Bank posted a seven- fold increase in profits to £51m (€69m) in the first three months of the year, and said mortgage draw-downs rose sharply.

The bank has now recorded profits in each of the last five quarters and also saw its total income rise from €242m to €255m. The bank recorded a 55pc increase in the value of mortgage loans being drawn down by customers in the three months to the end of March.

Ulster bank chief executive jim Brown said: “This quarter sees sustained progress across the key areas, demonstrating the underlying strength of the Ulster Bank franchise.”

***The chief executive of Dublin Airport Authority Kevin Toland has said that there is a need for a joined up marketing initiative for Cork Airport from its stakeholders.

He said that he was “very confident” that a solution could be reached to make the airport sustainable in the long term and added that the company’s stakeholders need to improve their marketing of Cork to potential overseas tourists.

He was speaking as the DAA reported an after-tax profit for 2014 of €19m, 50pc lower than in 2013, after it was hit by an exceptional €21m charge related to resolving a pension issue.

Operating profit was 41pc higher at €40m as revenue rose 13pc to €564m, however.

***The chief executive of Kerry Group said that the company must be ready to move to meet changing consumer needs and tastes.

Speaking at the firm’s annual general meeting yesterday, CEO Stan McCarthy said that although the group is set to benefit from the economic recover, a key challenge will be to ensure that it meets  the requirements of consumers in terms of health, nutrition and convenience standards.

The food and ingredients giant had sales of €8.8bn last year and saw its profits increase by just over 4pc to €636m.

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