Saturday 17 March 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:

***The Greek government made an audacious 11th hour bid for a new bailout just hours before being set to become the first developed world country to default on the IMF.

Greece asked for a two-year deal worth up to €30bn to keep the country afloat until 2017.

The proposed funds would come entirely from the eurozone’s permanent rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which is guaranteed by the bloc’s 19 member states and the funding would be used exclusively to meet Greece’s debts.

***The State’s public spending watchdog is looking to appoint an outside expert to beef up its ability to review the National Asset Management Agency (Nama)  and assess whether the agency has achieved value for money.

The Comptroller & Auditor General’s Office (C&AG) has tendered for the appointment of “expert assistance” to help in its work with the State agency.

The C&AG, which has in the past expressed concern about its staffing levels and ability to audit the bad bank, said the expert will help in reviewing and assessing Nama’s strategies and its performance in achieving its objectives.

***Activist investor Worldview has had a legal case against Irish oil and gas explorer Petroceltic dismissed in the English High Court, the latest in a series of bitter long-running disputes between the two companies.

The proceedings alleged that Petroceltic had failed to undertake a review of its business and sought direction from the court as to the manner in which the review was undertaken.

For its part Petroceltic has maintained that it has undertaken a suitable strategic review of the business. In its latest set of annual accounts, Petroceltic notes that the High Court dismissed Worldview’s action and awarded costs on a standard basis to Petroceltic.

Irish Times:

***US authorities are looking to seize $300m in bank accounts in Ireland, Luxembourg and Belgium, which it is alleged are the proceeds of corrupt payments in Uzbekistan made by two Russian telecoms companies, the Irish Times reports.

The US is alleging that the money is linked to corrupt payments worth some $500m made by Mobile Telesystems OJSC and Vimpelcom to an unnamed official so that the official could then influence the Uzbekistan government in relation to mobile phone licences and radio frequencies, according to the Irish Times.

It is claimed that the proceeds of the corruption were laundered in a series of transactions involving financial instruments in Ireland, Luxembourg and belgium. There has been no response to the court claims.

***Ladbrokes’ proposed plan for rescuing the struggling Irish arm of its business has been favoured over proposals made by rival bookmaker Boylesports and others, the Irish times reports.

The examiner appointed to oversee the rescue of Ladbrokes ireland Deloitte partner Kevin Fennell told creditors yesterday that he favours the plan put forward by the chain’s parent company in the UK, according to the Irish Times.

The proposal involves shedding some 60 stores out of 196 in the Republic and cutting some 250 of the 840 staff it employs here as well as exiting leases it says are too expensive.

***Consumer confidence has hit a nine-year high, according to a new study.

Consumers now increasingly expect things to get better, according to the consumer sentiment index compiled by KBC Bank and the Economic and Social Research Institute Index.

A reading of 102.8 was recorded in June, up from 98.5 in May. This is the highest level the index has reached since February 2006.

Irish Examiner:

***Mobile phone roaming bills are to be scrapped as the EU moves to abolish travel surcharges for calls, texts and internet data by June 2017.

Roaming was due to be abolished this year, but the date was moved back after some EU governments intervened on behalf of mobile operators.

Under the new rules mobile users will pay the same amount to make calls, send texts and use data no matter where they are in the EU.

***There was a significant increase in Circuit Court usage by SMEs applying for examinership in the second quarter of the year, according to a new study.

The Hughes Blake SME examinership index claimed that 331 jobs were saved by the examinership process between April and June, with just over 700 saved in the year to date.

Last year the Government made it easier to avail of examinership by allowing companies to apply for the process through the circuit court, which can cut costs by up to 30pc. The second quarter of the year marked the first time that Circuit Court applications outnumbered those issued by the High Court.

***Oil prices have bounced back from three-week lows, with US refined fuels markets leading the rally on bets for strong summer demand, even as Greece’s move towards a debt default threatened to jolt global markets.

Brent crude futures were, however, in line for a second straight monthly loss despite a 10pc gain for the first half of the year. US crude futures were up similarly for the half year after a loss for June.

However, crude futures also had a sterling quarter, with Brent notching its largest gain since 2012 and US crude its strongest since December 2012.

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