Monday 18 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:

***Germany is unwilling to write off Greek debts as it fears it would result in similar deals for Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

Following Greece’s decisive No vote in Sunday’s referendum on the previous bailout deal, Greece has been given a last chance to come up with new proposals to remain in the euro - or else leave the single currency.

The European Central Bank has kept the drip-feed of emergency credit to Greek banks open but has piled pressure on EU leaders to strike a deal soon.

However, the ECB did tighten its terms and make it harder for Greece’s banks to access emergency loans. EU leaders will examine new reforms at an emergency summit in Brussels tonight.

***Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has insisted he never received any payment in relation to a controversial sale of a portfolio of Nama loans.

Mr Robinson confirmed he had met representatives from the US investment firm Pimco when it was considering bidding for the portfolio of loans tied to Northern Ireland borrowers known as Project Eagle.

The portfolio, which had a par value of stg£4.5bn (€5.7bn) was sold by Nama for €1.6bn to another US investment firm, Cerberus Capital, in April 2014. Last week, Independent TD Mick Wallace alleged that a routine audit of a legal firm involved in the process, Tughans of Belfast, revealed “£7m had ended up in an Isle of Man bank account… reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician”.

***Public transport company CIE is planning a major expansion into the property market in an effort to boost its bottom line and help fund services.

The company is to go to the market seeking private sector partners to undertake major redevelopment projects in Dublin, Cork and Galway, the Irish Independent has learned.

The sites to be developed include Tara Street and Connolly stations in Dublin, as well as Ceannt Station in Galway and Kent Station in Cork.

***Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said that any bailout for Greece would not affect the upcoming budget.

This is despite the fact that the Department of Finance has confirmed that Ireland would have to contribute 2pc of the cost of any bailout for Greece. It is expected that the Greek government will look for a new €50bn programme.

Mr Noonan said: “Will it have a budgetary effect? No. But there is a possible potential liability in the future but it wouldn’t have a budgetary effect for the next budget.”

***Hotel chain Jurys Inn, which operates more than 30 outlets across Ireland and the UK, is to be the lynchpin in a new hotel group that is looking at a possible £2bn flotation, the Irish Times reports.

Amaris Hospitality, which combines 89 hotels acquired by Jurys Inn’s owner, Lone Star, will be headquartered in Dublin and ran by John Brennan, chief executive of the Jurys Inn group.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Mr Brennan said that an IPO was a possibility for Amaris, although he added that it would not be the only way for shareholders to exit the company.

***The biggest insurance  company in Ireland, RSA, has said that it intends to appeal a €1.2m award made at an employment appeals tribunal to its former Irish boss.

Mr Smyth took a tribunal case against RSA arguing that he was effectively forced out of the company in late 2013 and made the “fall guy” after huge holes were found in the reserves of the insurer, requiring a €262m injection of emergency capital from the firm’s British parent.

Yesterday David Walsh, RSA Group general counsel, said the insurer fundamentally disagreed with the judgment and was seeking redress through the courts.

Irish Examiner:

***Employers who fail to meet their obligations to their employees should be banned from being company directors for five years, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has urged.

Ictu general Patricia King called on the Government to legislate for such a move when meeting with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton yesterday to discuss the controversy of the recent closure of the Clerys department store in Dublin.

She said that current legislation that requires that employers must enter into a 30-day consultation period with staff before redundancies should be better implemented and argued that those who fail to do so should be removed as  directors for at least five years.

***Dunnes Stores has rivalled the German discount retailers for  growth over the last three months as it saw sales increase by 6.3pc.

The latest grocery market share figures for the 12 weeks to June 21 from consumer insights agency Kantar Worldpanel shows that Dunnes was the biggest mover in the period, increasing its market share to 22.2pc from 21.9pc.

German discount giants Aldi and Lidl also saw respectable gains in the market, increasing over the counter sales by 5.3pc and 6.4pc respectively.

***Pre-tax profits at the hotel group that co-owns the luxury five-star Merrion Hotel in Dublin last year enjoyed a 9pc increase in pre-tax profits to £2.19m (€3m).

The increase in profits at the Northern Ireland-based Hastings Hotels Group came as the group increased its revenues by 1.35pc from £39.24m to £39.77m in the 12 months to the end of October last.

The figures show that The Merrion Hotel outperformed the group last year, with the group’s joint venture share of The Merrion’s operating profit increasing by 13.5pc from £555,170 to £630,101.

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