Sunday 18 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 tallest office block in the Republic of Ireland will be built beside Dublin Port if Dublin City Council signs off on a planning application submitted today.

The receivers over the Point Village development - Grant Thornton’s Stephen Tennant and Paul McCann - have applied for planning permission to build a 17 storey, 73m tall office block, named “The Exo”.

The plans will allow for 224,500 sq ft of office space, about enough to house 2,000 workers. If the plans are signed off, construction will take about two years and employ 350 people in process.

***Dublin Airport is to spend an estimated €60m upgrading its existing runway and improving a number of other infrastructure elements.

The Dublin Airport Authority has just invited companies to tender for the work, with the runway improvements expected to be completed within two years. That element of the project will commence next year.

The current main runway – called 10/28 - handles about 95pc of the existing air movements at Dublin, which now amount to over 200,000 a year. Last year, Dublin handled 21.7m passengers.

***Finance Minister Michael Noonan has failed to ask banks to cut their high variable rates, despite a high-profile series of meetings with executives from the six domestic lenders this week and next.

Mr Noonan met executives from AIB and ACC yesterday and is due to meet others from Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC Bank today. Ulster Bank officials are due to meet the minister next week.

But the banks are not being asked directly to cut their variable rates, a spokesman for the minister confirmed to the Irish Independent. Only AIB, and its subsidiary EBS, have responded to previous calls from Mr Noonan for lower variable rates.

Irish Times:

***Permanent TSB has offered about 70,000 of its mortgage customers discounts of up to 0.8pc on their standard variable rate if they apply for a new product based on loan-to-value ratios.

The Irish Times reports that PTSB began writing to customers last week allowing them to switch to the “managed variable rate” which is linked to the loan-to-value rate on a mortgage.

The discount on the interest rate offer will vary from 0.2pc to 0.8pc depending on a customer’s loan-to-value rate. The move comes as Finance Minister Michael Noonan started meetings with all mortgage lenders this week to discuss their variable rates.

***Frank Cushnahan, the former advisor to the National Assets Management Agency in Northern Ireland, has said that he did not have any contact with US investment group Cerberus.

A solicitor representing Mr Cushnahan, who was a member of Nama’s advisory committee for three years from 2010, sent a letter to the Stormont Committee for Finance and Personnel which is investigating the sale of the agency’s assets in Northern Ireland.

The letter says that Mr Cushnahan was alarmed by evidence given by Belfast property developer Gareth Graham earlier this month, in which Mr Graham claimed that he had hundreds of hours of recordings of Mr Cushnahan while he had used one of the Graham family offices.

***Retail leaders have warned that investment and consumer confidence could be dented by the latest bout of political instability in Northern Ireland.

Shopper footfall numbers in August were down by 2.4pc compared to the same month last year, according to the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC).

NIRC director Aodhan Connolly said that although the drop had not been as high as had been recorded in July, “the political instability currently seen in Northern Ireland will not have a positive effect on consumer confidence nor on future investment plans”.

Irish Examiner:

***Irish petrol station chain Applegreen has said that it is planning to open ten new outlets between Ireland, the UK and the US by the end of the year.

The firm also said that the planned rise in the UK minimum wage should not negatively affect the business and could work in the company’s favour by boosting consumer spending.

Applegreen yesterday posted a 16pc increase in its revenue to €517.5m in the six months to the end of June as net profit rose by 8.3pc to €2.7m.

***Non-fare revenues at Ryanair hit almost €1.7bn last year as the company increasingly looks to utilise its business class service.

Ancillary revenues, such as excess baggage charges and in-flight services, accounted for about a quarter of the airline’s total sales of $7.73bn last year.

That is according to data compiled by consultancy firm IdeaWorksCompany for Irish travel tech platform CarTrawler. It puts Ryanair fifth out of 63 airlines in terms of the proportion of ancillary revenues to total income.

***New figures have shown that exports have fallen to their lowest level since March, raising questions about whether the recent surge in the economy can last, the Irish Examiner reports.

Data published yesterday by the CSO shows that exports fell to €8.76bn in July compared to €9.35bn in June. This was their lowest level since March, when exports were €8.73bn.

Exports have also been helped this year by the weak price of the euro compared to the sterling, boosting the competitiveness of Irish goods sold into the UK.

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