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 final bottleneck on the road connecting the three biggest cities in the country will be eradicated in the Government’s new capital investment plan, with an upgrade of the N7 Naas dual carriageway.

The €27bn programme will also see the Rotunda Maternity Hospital moved to west Dublin.

The homeless crisis will be tackled through €600m being put into social housing. The Government’s ‘Building for Recovery’ plan also promises to create 45,000 jobs.

***The Bahraini owner of Energia here is plotting a sale of the Irish business in a deal certain to value it at more than €1bn.

Arcapita, a private equity group whose interests extend across a range of asset classes, has reportedly been sounding out advisers to line the Viridian energy arm up for a trade sale.

In Northern Ireland, Viridian owns Power NI, where it supplies electricity to about 610,000 homes and businesses. In the Republic, Viridian owns Energia, which supplies electricity to the domestic and commercial market.

***Swiss-Irish bakery firm Aryzta has said that it is focusing on growing its cash pile as it mulls whether to acquire the whole of French food company Picard.

The Irish-listed firm took a 49pc stake in the French frozen foods business earlier this year at a cost of €446.6m and has a call option to acquire the remaining 51pc in 2019.

A spokesman for Aryzta confirmed that cash generation is now a priority for the business, saying: “Free cash is expected to grow tenfold to €200m which will strengthen the balance sheet. We have the option to take a 100pc stake in Picard  in 2019 and we have to prepare for that.” When asked if the possible acquisition of the remainder of Picard was one of the reasons for the focus on cash growth he said: “Yes”.

Irish Times:

***Builders may not need to pay levies to on starter homes built in Dublin and some other parts of the country, the Irish Times reports.

The newspaper reports that as part of a Government plan to provide 15,000 new homes annually builders would not have to pay the levy to local authorities in regions that suffer from a shortage of new housing stock for first time buyers.

The proposal is to come under scrutiny ahead of the upcoming budget although there is no final agreement as the move would see local authorities lose out on as much as €100m in development levies.

***UK property firm Hammerson and German company Allianz Real Estate have teamed up to buy the loans associated with the Dundrum shopping centre with a joint offer of up to €1.9bn.

The firms have been named the preferred bidder by Nama. Although it does not mean a deal is closed, the sale will conclude barring any major issue. An announcement by Nama is expected this week, possibly as early as today.

Project Jewel is made up of loans connected with developer Joe O’Reilly. As well as Dundrum, the portfolio also includes 50pc stakes in the Ilac shopping centre in Dublin city centre and the Pavillions shopping centre in Swords.

***Irish oil and gas exploration firm Petroceltic was yesterday granted an injunction preventing an EGM that had been called by its largest shareholder, Worldview, from going ahead.

Mr Justice Henry Abbott accepted undertakings on behalf of Worldview that shareholders would be informed of the court’s decision and of the fact there would not now be an EGM.

The judge said both parties should make every effort to have an early trial of the proceedings.

Petroceltic had claimed that the convening of the EGM in London on October 5 by Worldview International Ltd SEZC was unlawful and should not be allowed to proceed.

Irish Examiner:

***Leading car brands such as Mercedes and BMW are emitting around 50pc more CO2 than they claim in official tests, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by the sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E), said that the gap between lab and real world performance has grown so much that it cannot be explained through known factors such as test manipulations.

It said that while this was not proof that there had been devices used to alter results, such as those used by German manufacturer Volkswagen, the group said EU governments must extend probes to include diesel cars.

***Tesco Ireland saw its over the counter sales grow for the first time in more than two years in the past quarter.

The latest quarterly data from consumer insights agency Kantar Worldpanel shows that Tesco sales were up by 0.3pc on a year on year basis in the 12 weeks to September 14.

The company maintained its position as market leader in Ireland. Grocery sales overall increased 1.8pc year on year in the period.

***Retail sales figures published yesterday show that retailers are starting to benefit from increased consumer spending, according to analysts.

Data from the Central Statistics Office released yesterday show that the volume of retail sales fell by 4pc in August compared to July, but were up by 9.3pc year on year.

Investec chief economist Philip O’Sullivan said "The breadth of the recovery in consumer spending is reflected in the fact that all 13 segments of the retail sector recorded annual growth in the volume of sales in August, while 11 posted annual growth in value terms.”

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