Monday 19 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:

***The European Commission has backed the hard line being taken by Irish banks in their refusal to slash variable mortgage rates for tens of thousands of families.

As EU chiefs continue wrangling with the Greek government, the Commission said our bailed-out banks should be allowed to profiteer on the back of mortgage holders.

A draft report by the European Commission, seen by the Irish Independent, warned that the “continued pressure” being placed on banks to cut mortgage interest rates may undermine the stability of Ireland’s financial sector.

***Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won a commitment to seek a last-minute rescue at an emergency eurozone summit yesterday, before his country’s banks run out of money.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told reporters that EU leaders would hold a further summit on Sunday to approve a plan to aid Greece if creditor institutions are satisfied in the meantime with a Greek loan application and reform commitments.

“The ball is in Greece’s court,” Renzi said. “Next Sunday the final meeting will take place on Greece.”

***A special liquidator has claimed he had to overcome “dishonest and fraudulent activity” to secure control over major assets in the €500m property portfolio of the family of former billionaire Sean Quinn.

Kieran Wallace told the Commercial Court that “contrived bankruptcies” had been one of the tactics used in an attempt to put the three properties, in Russia and the Ukraine, beyond the reach of Quinn family creditors.

He also admitted that it was proving “extremely challenging” to secure control over eight other Quinn properties in Russia.

Irish Times:

***Billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien is believed to be considering selling off his luxury Algarve resort, Quinta do Lago, for €220m.

According to a report in local publication ‘Portugal Resident’, at least two approaches have recently been made for the resort although sale negotiations are at an early stage.

The resort was bought by Mr O’Brien in 1998 and it is understood that he has invested €29m in it over the past five years. A spokesman for Mr O’Brien would not comment

***Irish investment group Tetrarch Capital is in exclusive negotiations to buy the Millennium complex in Naas from a Nama-controlled developer for more than €35m, according to the Irish Times.

US investment giant Pimco, which previously tried to buy Nama’s Project Eagle in Northern Ireland, is backing Tetrarch on the deal.

Millennium Park was bought in 2006 by a group of developers in a deal backed by AIB. The complex has more than 330 acres of development and agricultural land as well as a business park.

***Business Minister Ged Nash has said that he thinks that current laws in place offer enough protection to deal with legal issues arising from the closure of Clerys department store in Dublin.

In a report prepared for Cabinet on the closure of the store Mr Nash also said that the the State could ultimately shoulder the biggest financial burden as a result of the controversial closure of the department store.

“In economic terms, the State may well turn out to be the biggest loser in this transaction,” he said.

Irish Examiner:

***The US law company which advised two bidders in the controversial €5.7bn of Project Eagle loans sold by Nama last year said that it will fully cooperate in any investigation into the transaction.

A spokesperson for Brown Rudnick said that the company “is fully supportive of efforts to clarify the issues that have been raised over this matter and will give every assistance to the relevant authorities.”

The move came as the Irish Government is facing mounting calls to set up a commission of inquiry into allegations surrounding the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book. Last week, Independent TD Mick Wallace told the Dáil that a routine audit of a legal firm involved in the loans sale, Tughans, revealed that "£7m had ended up in an Isle of Man bank account ... reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician".

***Billionaire Donald Trump has won his battle against plans for a giant wind farm near his Doonbeg golf course – thanks to a little-known freshwater pearl mussel.

This follows An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission to Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd to erect a nine-turbine wind farm within sight of Mr Trump’s Doonbeg Golf Resort on

Co Clare’s Atlantic coast.

The board refused planning permission on only one ground – the impact the wind farm would have on the freshwater pearl mussel. In its order, the appeals board stated that it was not satisfied that the proposal would not constitute a serious risk of impairment to the aquatic habitat of this sensitive species, which has a lifespan of 120 years, in the Doonbeg river.

***Ryanair is launching services to Israel in November, marking a long-awaited arrival of the airline in the Middle East.

The debut routes will operate between Ovda Airport in the south of Israel to three European destinations – Budapest in Hungary; Kaunas in Lithuania; and Krakow in Poland.

The carrier, headed by Michael O’Leary, has been eyeing services to Israel for years. However, it had to await the 2013 signing of an open skies agreement between Israel and the European Union before it had any realistic chance of launching services to the country. That agreement came into force last year.

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