Wednesday 17 January 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:

***High-value jobs are at risk in the capital after tech firms in Dublin were told they cannot expand for a year because available modern office space has not kept up with demand.

Jobs growth is at risk as firms in the capital with expansion plans have nowhere to move to, according to research from the ESRI and commercial property giants Jones Lang Lasalle. Availability of offices is at its lowest since 2011.

More than two-thirds of the Dublin office space let in the first half of this year was taken up by international technology firms, which have been a major driver of jobs growth.

***Portugal’s government is to pay just €1.3m per year to Ireland’s Web Summit organisers to move Europe’s largest web technology conference from Dublin to Lisbon.

The modest bursary will prompt new questions on why Ireland’s most successful technology event is moving out of the country with an estimated loss to the local economy of €100m.

According to the conference’s organisers, the company is moving its event to Portugal next year because of the difference in infrastructure quality rather than for a better financial subsidy.

***Irish agri-services company Origin Enterprises is set to continue on its acquisition trail after recently agreeing to spend about €77m on three businesses.

It is understood that Origin believes it has enough flexibility on its balance sheet to spend about €150m to fund  purchases if suitable acquisition opportunities become available.

Chief executive Tom O’Mahony said that Origin “absolutely will continue looking” for acquisitions, adding: “We are focused on developing a pan-European footprint.”

Irish Times:

***DUP leader Peter Robinson is to reject allegations that he was to gain from the £1.2bn sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has said that Mr Robinson was to personally benefit from the sale of the properties to US investment firm Cerberus. He made the allegation yesterday under privilege at the Northern Ireland finance committee.

Mr Robinson has described the claims as “scurrilous and unfounded” and has said that he would be happy to appear before the committee.

***The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been advised that it should end a practise that allows US companies easy access to the online data of EU citizens.

In a non-binding report, the advocate general of the ECJ recommended that the court remove the Safe Harbour data transfer provision for US firms operating in the EU. A final decision is expected to be made before the end of the year.

The recommendation is a victory for Austrian campaigner Max Schrems, who took a case against Facebook and the transfer of his data to US organisations. Mr Schrems began his legal challenge in Ireland.

***Bank of Ireland is moving closer to paying out a dividend for the first time since the crash, according to its chief financial officer Andrew Keating, inset.

Mr Keating said the consensus among analysts who cover the bank is that a dividend will be announced around its 2016 results.

“Clearly I can’t confirm an exact timing on this as it is a decision for my Board and for discussion with our regulators. However the day when dividends will resume is certainly getting closer,” he told the leinster Society of Chartered Accountants yesterday.

Irish Examiner:

***Volkswagen shares slumped yesterday after the company’s chief executive announced his resignation in the wake of the emissions scandal.

Martin Winterkorn has admitted the firm rigged diesel emissions to pass US tests during his time in charge.

Mr Winterkorn took responsibilities for the “irregularities” found on his watch but claimed that he was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part”. Options for a new chief executive will be discussed at a board meeting tomorrow.

***A “vintage era” for small Irish exporters is likely to continue into next year on the back of the weak euro, leading economists are predicting.

The drop in the value of the euro against the sterling and the dollar has provided Irish companies with an advantage when exporting, allowing them to price goods competitively.

Analysts say that any hike in rates by the ECB would likely be two years behind the US central bank and the Bank of England. Chief economist at Investec Philip O’Sullivan has said that he believes that the value of the euro could fall even further, going as low as 67 pence in Q1.

***Management, including members of the founding Pratt family, will stay on if a planned sale of at Avoca goes ahead, according to managing director Simon Pratt.

He was commenting as new accounts show Avoca's pre-tax profits increased by 67pc to €2.6m last year. Revenues rose 2pc to €58.84m. Talks on a sale of the retailer are progressing well, Mr Pratt said.

He confirmed in the event of a sale that he, his brother Ivan, sister Vanessa and parents and all senior staff will stay on to manage the business.

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