Sunday 19 November 2017

Ross in hunt for distressed assets


Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross said he is assessing distressed assets in southern Europe and was looking to make some investments in the next few months. "We're looking in southern Europe, at Greece, at Spain, at Portugal, at Italy, because they're still having some difficulties," Ross said in an interview with Reuters before making a speech to a business audience in Toronto. "In the next few months we'll make some investments."

Mr Ross, who made a windfall after selling a slice of a stake he had taken in the Bank of Ireland, said he finds real estate assets in Ireland attractive, though he added that he wasn't planning to invest in any other Irish banks. Last month, Mr Ross and Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings received sufficient bids to sell a combined 6.4pc stake in Bank of Ireland. There has been an increase in demand for assets in peripheral eurozone countries as their economies stabilise, particularly in Ireland, which has seen a surge in demand for distressed assets from North American investors.



Agribusiness company ABP Food Group has become the first company in Ireland to receive triple certification for water, carbon and waste reduction initiatives from the Carbon Trust, a leading authority on monitoring the efforts of companies and governments to reduce their environmental impact.

Just four other companies in the UK have received all three carbon trust awards; Marks & Spencers, Whitbread, PwC and AkzoNobel UK.

The award follows ABP's "Doing More with Less Programme", which began four years ago. The company's targets include a 10pc reduction in water usage by 2020, a 20pc reduction in energy usage by 2020 and a 25pc reduction in CO2 output from plants by 2020.

Examples of projects that have helped ABP hit these targets include the use of better and more efficient fuel boilers, an awareness campaign to dramatically increase recycling levels in all plants, and harvesting of rain water for use in truck washes at distribution depots.



Britain may choose not to buy electricity from an independent Scottish state if prices are higher than imports from other neighbours, the UK government said on Wednesday, firing a warning shot at Scotland five months ahead of its independence vote. An independent Scotland would have to rely on electricity exports to Britain to sell excess renewable energy generation because its grid is only connected with England and, to a lesser extent, Ireland.

"With a range of generation sources within its own borders and elsewhere, a continuing UK would not be obliged to purchase energy from an independent Scottish state," Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a report. Britain also imports electricity from the Netherlands, France and Ireland and is planning to build other links to Belgium, Norway and Denmark.

Scotland's electricity network is connected with England, where the bulk of its excess electricity supplies are delivered. A smaller cable to Ireland is rarely used for export. Companies producing electricity in Scotland include Iberdrola's Scottish Power and British utility SSE. Scotland votes on September 18 whether to end its 307-year union with England.



German imports climbed to their highest level since reunification while exports fell in February, in a sign that domestic demand in Europe's largest economy is gathering pace. Figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed seasonally adjusted imports climbed by 0.4pc to €77.6bn, their highest level since the office started compiling seasonally adjusted data for reunified Germany in January 1991. Imports had been expected to increase by 0.1pc. Exports dropped by a larger-than-expected 1.3pc, with economists putting this down to turbulence in emerging markets and the Crimea crisis.

They had been forecast to fall by 0.5pc. "Imports grew because consumers are consuming more and companies are investing more," said Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank. "That's a good sign for domestic demand. That helps the eurozone crisis countries to grow their way out of the crisis with exports."

The government expects domestic demand to drive growth this year.



Listed companies across the European Union must get shareholder approval on pay policy for top executives under a draft European Union law aimed at making firms more answerable to their owners. EU financial services chief Michel Barnier has proposed toughening up the 28-country bloc's law on shareholder rights to end "short-termism", though stopping short of capping pay in the way he has separately done for banker bonuses.

"Today's proposals will encourage shareholders to engage more with the companies they invest in, and to take a longer-term perspective of their investment," Mr Barnier said in a statement yesterday.

The plans need approval from EU states and the European Parliament to come into force, with changes likely. Under the proposals, the bloc's 10,000 listed companies would have to publish clear and comparable information on their remuneration policy for executives and seek shareholder backing for it every three years.

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