Saturday 25 May 2019

What it says in the papers: business pages

Paul O'Donoghue

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

Irish Independent:

***Greece could be ejected from the eurozone for five years unless it manages to pass a suite of savage cuts and radical reform measures through parliament in the coming days.

The most damaging split in the history of the eurozone emerged yesterday as up to nine member states seriously considered the prospect of accepting a so-called ‘Grexit’.

European leaders have issued Greece with its final ultimatum: accept our demands or leave the currency for five years.

***Human rights groups are threatening moves to block Irish oil exploration company San Leon Energy’s plan to drill in the disputed Western Sahara region, which has been under Moroccan control since 1979.

Dublin headquartered San Leon Energy is facing a potential legal challenge over its proposed drilling activity in the disputed North African territory, which Morocco describes as its Southern Provinces.


Human rights group opposed to the drilling say oil exploration should be suspended while the future of Western Sahara is in dispute.

***Tanaiste Joan Burton is seeking to force bailed-out banks to contribute to a fund which would allow post offices develop new bank accounts for people on social welfare.

As part of the taxpayer-funded recapitalisation of the country’s failed banks, there was a commitment by the lending institutions to contribute to a fund for establishing so- called ‘standard bank accounts’. These accounts are for people who are considered to be ‘financially excluded’, meaning they have never had access to a bank account or they cannot afford the charges associated with holding an account.

Last week, Ms Burton wrote to Finance Minister Michael Noonan, insisting that the bailed-out banks – Bank of Ireland, AIB and PTSB – have been “reluctant” to fulfil their commitment to provide SBAs.

Irish Times:

***Cerberus, the US company that bought Nama’s Northern Ireland Project Eagle loan portfolio, has snapped up over €19bn worth of property loans across Europe over the last two years through a network of Irish firms, the Irish Times reports.

According to the newspaper several Irish-registered companies own hundreds of millions, or in some cases, billions of euros in assets but have no staff in Ireland. Some also do not pay any corporation tax here.

The companies, of which there are at least ten, are all owned by a Dutch fund called Promontoria that is owned by Cerberus .

***Upmarket retailer Brown Thomas has begun a  €1.5m revamp of its flagship store on Dublin’s Grafton Street, the Irish Times reports.

The undertaking is part of a wider €20m refurbishment that is aimed at modernising the store to help it take advantage of the upswing in the domestic economy.

Speaking to the newspaper Brown Thomas managing director Stephen Sealey said: “It’s about taking care of the building . . . and presenting a really sharp exterior. It will cost us about €1.5 million but it’s the right thing to do.”

***The former holder of the Iceland retail franchise in Ireland is to apply to the High Court for examinership next Monday to help it try and restructure its debts.

ACCHL, previously known as AIM Cash & Carry, saw its revenues collapse from €21.8m to €4.4m after it sold the franchise back to the Iceland group at the end of 2013.

Last week the company, which was founded by Irish-based Indian businessman Naeem Maniar almost 20 years ago, sought the appointment of Joseph Walsh of accountants Hughes Blake as examiner.

Irish Examiner:

***A review of Cork’s local government structures could see the region’s city and county councils  merge, securing the first boundary extension of the city in more than 50 years and creating a metropolitan area of more than 300,000 people, the Irish Examiner reports.

A five person review panel was set up last year to review the structure of local government in the region and issue recommendations on new structures planned to last for the next 50 years.

One of the options that the panel is considering is the first extension of Cork’s city boundary since 1965 or the possible merger of the city and county council.

***Several leading economists are considering upping their growth expectations for the Irish economy later this month as conditions begin to resemble those of the years leading up to the Celtic Tiger, the Irish Examiner reports.

Economists say that they are waiting for the publication of new GDP figures later this month before  upgrading their growth forecasts, but expect to do so soon after.

KBC chief economist Austin Hughes said that he will likely increase his growth expectation of 4.5pc this year, while Investec chief economist Philip O’Sullivan, who is currently predicting a growth rate of 4pc for 2015, says he may also up his expectations on the back of CSO figures.

***The Irish construction sector grew last month at its fastest rate since November 2004, according to the Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index.

The seasonally-adjusted index rose to 65.7 in June from 63.3 in May. Any reading above 50 indicates an increase in activity.

It is the second-highest reading in the survey’s 15-year history, with the pace of growth in June bettered only by the record rate of growth recorded in November 2004.

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