Synopsis of Sunday business pages


Sunday Business Post The front page of the Sunday Business Post leads with: “The boss of the HSE has delivered a withering assessment of the Irish health system, saying its structures are not fit for purpose and that Ireland simply has too many hospitals providing complex care. Tony O’Brien, the director- general of the HSE, said the country needs to stop providing complex acute care at so many hospitals.” Tony O’Brien writes an article on the state of the HSE in the paper. He said the current areas where the system is dysfunctional is a result of hard decisions not being made over the years. The Department of Education is under pressure with its budget due to the cost of funding pensions and funding Irish students studying in the North. The NTMA is taking charge of collecting and preserving the €15bn owed from Apple plus interest in taxes due based on the EU ruling last year. It will obviously be put in escrow as Apple appeal. Micheál Martin, leader of the opposition party Fianna Fáil (FF), is interviewed in the paper. He said the FF view on housing is very different to the current government in that FF would build a lot of dedicated social housing estates whereby the current government wants part social, part private. He claims the inaction on vacant sites is a problem and he would move on this if in power. He ruled out the prospect of going into power with Sinn Féin. Joe Brolly is interviewed in the Business Post and he warns that the GAA putting its games behind a Sky paywall is a dangerous move away from what the GAA is all about. Johnny Ronan’s plans for a 22-storey tower beside Tara St. have been rejected. Renowned architect Des McMahon said the application followed the exact guidance contained within the development plan for the region and cannot understand why it has not been granted planning. DunoAir was refused permission at An Bord Pleanála level to build eight three-megawatt wind turbines near Coolmore Stud in Tipperary. The council had originally refused it and the Bord’s ruling was consistent with the council. The CEO of DunoAir seems intent on fighting the case in the courts. A number of major institutions have shorted Greencore. However other well renowned analysts think the stock is a buy. Ignition Wealth, an Australian digital financial advisor, is setting up in Dublin and is being advised by Crowe Horwath and fintech expert Peter Oakes. Niall McGarry, head of Maximum Media, is interviewed in the magazine and is looking to expand into continental Europe, but is really focusing on building on its current foothold in the Britain with its websites. Obeo, which sells biodegradable food waste boxes to homeowners, has received a lot of traction from its listing on Amazon and is looking to build on this by expanding via other channels into mainland Europe, US and Canada. Sunway head Tanya Alrey said the number of bed nights it has booked is up 35% on 2016 and said that a two-star in Spain costs as much as a four-star in Turkey as people gravitate towards the lesser risk locations. Hickey Pharmacies and the HSE are fighting out a dispute in the courts over dispensing fees. The number of cars offered for sale with debt has risen from 9.5% in June 2016 to 12.5% this year, which is a substantial increase. Tom Lyons wonders if Independent News and Media could be ripe for a buyout by Denis O’Brien given how low the share price is. Its share price fell 30% in the past week on foot of a profit warning. It has a market cap of €125m, has €100m in cash on its balance sheet and should make €30m of profits in the next year. The company had 876 staff at the end of 2016, down from 999 the previous year. In a separate media story, the NUJ has called for equal pay for digital and non-digital journalists working for Landmark Media titles. Matt Cooper writes about Bono and U2. “Work Compass, the performance management software company, will increase its staff count from 15 to 100 over the next four years”, according an article in the Business Post. One shareholder in Irish Direct Fuels, which recorded a profit of €1.5m in the year ending March 2016, is buying out another. Tom Lyons has a piece on Dr Pearse Lyons’ St James’s Church distillery in Dublin’s Liberties. Stephen Kinsella writes about the “gig economy” whereby a lot of workers are working on a contracted hired basis. While it accounts for 4% of employment in US and Britain today, studies show it could account for nearly half by 2025. While the benefits for workers of flexibility are great, it will impact on their ability to get mortgages and they will not enjoy a lot of other benefits afforded to full time employees. There is a profile on Richie Boucher as he releases his final set of figures this Friday. Yet again, Michael O’Leary features in quote of the week: “If you have chosen a random seat, you are getting a random seat so stop whinging.” There is a very clever start-up featured in the Business Post, Sanctifly, which intends to aggregate all gyms at hotels beside airports to allow travellers exercise in those gyms. Jack Horgan-Jones interviews new junior Finance Minister Michael D’Arcy. The emerging peer-to-peer lender Flender is featured in the Business Post. Sunday Independent It is reported that NTR is planning to raise a new €500m green energy fund by the end of 2017 that will target investments in “wind and solar projects, together with some energy-storage projects in select European countries”. This is NTR’s second green energy fund after raising a €250m fund in 2016. According to the article, there is c. €60m of this fund yet to be placed. Eir, who acquired Meteor mobile in 2005, plans to retire the Meteor phone brand from September this year. The service will take on the Eir brand. Between Eir mobile and Meteor mobile, Eir has c. 1.1m customers in Ireland. Mainstream Renewable Power, led by Eddie O’Connor, is planning to raise €120m of equity from investors. It is reported that this is likely to take place once the company completes the sale of a wind farm asset in Scotland worth c. €50m. The proposed use of the funds is not reported in the paper. In a Labour Court submission document seen by the Sunday Independent, Aer Lingus outlines its worries about competition in the market, including Ryanair’s improved customer service policy which erodes the justification for Aer Lingus to charge a premium to Ryanair, its “structurally unsustainable” short-haul operation and increased transatlantic competition from Norwegian. The paper dedicates a full page to the report. Richard Curran’s piece: - Curran highlights how the €178m refund of the water charges paid will be funded from unspent cash allocated to other departments. He also highlights the forecast rise in the total government budget from €54bn last year to €64.2bn by 2021 and how the government’s assumption that tax receipts will rise to cover the budget “stretches credibility”. - Curran reports on the troubles facing White Moss Horticulture, a Liverpool-based business acquired by Bord na Móna last year for €12.1m. Since acquiring the company, Bord na Móna has reported a €14m hit on the investment due to “professional fees, costs and write-downs because regulatory compliance issues had arisen”. When acquired, the business was making a £200k loss on a turnover of £12m. - Pat McCann’s Dalata has plans to level its Tara Towers Hotel site and construct a four-star Maldron hotel and 70 residential units. Curran notes that Dalata are assuming a rising house market now, as well as a rising hotel market to justify the development. SSE has discovered defects in the concrete base in c. 50 wind turbines in Ireland. The company has stated that “there is no risk of foundation failure” on the wind turbines, however is carrying out upgrade works to “prevent further degradation of the bases”. HealthKit, an Australian company with operations in 50 countries, will set up its European HQ in Cork. The company provides a software solution for managing health clinics and their record keeping. The Grant Thornton / Retail Excellence Ireland Retail Industry Sales Review for the second quarter 2017 has found that retail sales remain “incredibly volatile”. Overall, retail sales rose 1.26%, however some sectors had mixed performance. NAMA has clarified a query raised by TD Mick Wallace over fees paid to Northern Ireland advisory firm RSM McClure Watters. NAMA had previously reported that the firm had been paid €60k in fees over a five year period, however it has now been clarified that they had received fees of over €1m. The additional fees over €60k were made up of income collected by the firm from asset disposals and rental income and were set off against the fees owed. In a trading update last week by Independent News and Media (INM), it was reported that legal fees in relating to its independent corporate governance review and an inquiry by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement relating to a prompted disclosure by CEO Robert Pitt are estimated to be more than €1m. 2FM was RTE’s only station to suffer a fall in commercial revenue in 2016, with radio stations RTE Radio 1, Lyric FM and television stations RTE One and RTE2 all reported modest increases in commercial revenue. IFG issued a profit warning last week, citing uncertainty around a review being carried out by the tax authorities in the UK. The review could carry a “sanction charge” of £1.8m. It appears that the review is in relation to an investment by IFG’s pension fund. Dan White highlights the effect that lower sterling is having on the tourism sector, with UK visitor numbers down 7% in the first five months of the year. White also comments on Ireland’s start-up stats: the most recent European wide data from 2014 shows that Ireland ranked second last in the EU to Belgium for our low rate of start-ups (new companies as a percentage of total companies). This week Fearghal O’Connor interviews Beatrice Cosgrove, general manager for Ireland for Etihad Airways. JustEat will replace Coke as the new sponsor of the Dublin bike scheme in a deal worth a reported €2.25m. Stock Spirits Group, a central and eastern Europe-focused drinks company, has acquired a 25% stake in Quintessential Brands Irish Whiskey after making an €18.3m investment in the business. The investment will be used to complete the fit-out of Quintessential’s new distillery in Dublin’s Liberties area and promotional activity in Quintessential’s brands. Alan O’Neill steps in for Sean Gallagher this week and interviews Colin Devine, founder of Design and Display, a Dublin-based company which produces POS stands for brands and retailers. Gabrielle Monaghan interviews Maurice Kettyle, founder of Kettyle Irish Foods. Samantha McCaughren’s Ergo piece - Domhnal Slattery is planning upgrade works on his Shrewsbury Road house which he bought for €5.6m earlier this year. - Members of the Smithwicks family have launched a new craft beer, Sullivan’s Ale, and recently completed a €190k fundraising for the business. - McCaughren reports on some recent pessimistic outlook ratings from analysts for Paddy Power Betfair this week which led to a slight fall in the share price during the week. Sunday Times NAMA has appointed agents Cushman & Wakefield and Jones Lang LaSalle to sell The Square shopping centre in Tallaght, bringing to market one of the last remaining large-scale, stand-alone commercial properties in the agency’s portfolio. The shopping centre is expected to be marketed in September and is likely to be valued at well over €300m. Robert Pitt, chief executive of Independent News and Media (INM), has ruled out a paywall on the group’s newspapers’ websites despite a dramatic profit warning that impacted heavily on its shares last week. Brian Carey’s agenda piece: - Carey also covers INM’s results and the current relationship between chairman Lesley Buckley and chief executive Robert Pitt, who clashed over the proposed price of the putative acquisition of Newstalk, the radio station controlled by INM shareholder Denis O’Brien. - Jeremy Masding, the Permanent TSB chief executive, has said in the past it would be more than his job is worth to start selling non-performing loans to the investment funds and distressed loan book acquirers. PTSB has one of the largest non-performing loan books in Europe; only Greek-quoted banks have a higher level of non-performing loans. PTSB’s return on equity at 6.6% also puts it in the challenged category. AIB is to charge corporate customers for keeping their money on deposit, imposing negative interest rates for the first time. The move comes after the European Central Bank (ECB) confirmed last week that it would continue its loose monetary policy for the foreseeable future. The negative rates will only apply to large deposits, typically balances in excess of €10m and will affect less than 1% of the bank's customers. Cormac Lucey this week covers the confusion surrounding the measurement of Ireland’s economic output and how it is affected by the activities of the multinationals. Martin Shanahan, the chief executive of IDA Ireland, has called for a shake-up of the planning system in light of the long delays to Apple's plans for an €850m data centre in Galway. Shanahan believes tight turnaround times are required for big planning decisions or companies could choose to invest elsewhere. The European Central Bank (ECB) may be sending out mixed messages on interest rate movements, but homeowners are being advised to take advantage of the current era of low interest rates and cheap money while they still can. Many householders have avoided locking into existing fixed rate offers because the fixed rates on offer are poor value or run out after just a few years. However, lenders are now starting to offer long-term fixed rate offers that should continue to insulate homeowners long after interest rates begin to rise. Ulster Bank has made the running and is rolling out a four-year fixed rate offer at 2.6% this week, undercutting other mortgage providers by a wide margin. Dermot Desmond’s Bottin International Investments has loaned £28.7m to help refinance the Titanic Quarter development company in Belfast, which is owned by Pat Doherty’s Harcourt Developments. The refinancing loans replace debt from Burlington Loan Management, part of the American Group Davidson Kempner, which acquired the Titanic borrowings from Ulster Bank in 2014. The company behind the Titanic Quarter is developing 161.5 acres of land at Belfast Harbour, which will include an office block and a hotel. Avenue Mould Solutions, a Sligo specialist in moulds for the medtech sector, has been sold to the Vermont-based GW Plastics, the consideration was not disclosed. Galway-based builder JJ Rhatigan has filed legal papers against NAMA in a row concerning a prime development site in Galway city, known as the Crown site. The Rye River Brewing Company, the maker of McGargles craft beer, lost €3.5m last year after ventures in America and Asia failed to pay off. The state’s new mortgage arrears resolution service has helped fewer than 160 borrowers at risk of losing their homes to challenge their lenders through the courts. The “Abhaile service”, launched last October, helps borrowers challenge mortgage providers when they veto proposals for a personal insolvency arrangement. Philip Connolly reports that “Rietumu Banka, a Latvian bank in which Dermot Desmond is a 33% shareholder, has agreed to pay a €1.6m fine to the Baltic country's financial watchdog over its alleged attempts to circumvent international sanctions on North Korea”. The Irish assets of the UK property Hammerson, including a 50% share in the Dundrum Town Centre, are undervalued by up to €350m, according to new research from stockbroker Davy. Movies@Cinemas benefited from a record year at the Irish box office as the multiplex cinema owner’s pre-tax profits doubled to €345k last year. The business is owned by the O’Gorman family, which ran the Ormonde cinema in Stillorgan, and the Spurling family. The Moran family, owners of the Red Cow hotel on the outskirts of Dublin, has sought planning permission to build an events centre and office beside the hotel. SOSV, an investment fund set up by Sean O’Sullivan, is set to announce investments in three Irish companies next week. SOVS will invest in the three companies which are graduating from its Cork-based RebelBio accelerator programme, which works with life sciences companies. SOVS raised a $150m fund. GMC/Sierra, the engineering company hired by Irish Water to install meters, booked pre-tax profits of €2.9m in 2015, down from €4.5m the previous year. Anglo Irish Bank still has 175 legal cases outstanding which need to be addressed before the bank can be liquidated. The venture arm of Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco invested €1.5m in Oxymem, a Dublin clean water company, in a recent deal. Gavin Daly’s Inside Track this week: - Fergal Leamy, chief executive of Coillte; Vincent Harrison, who runs Dublin Airport; and Niall McCarthy, who runs Cork airport, are believed to be in the frame as potential candidates to replace Kevin Toland as chief executive of Dublin Airport Authority. - Cyril Duffy and Liam Healy have bought another hotel. They were part of a consortium that bought the Breaffy House hotel resort in Castlebar in 2014; the same group have just bought the Blackwell Grange hotel in Darlington, Co. Durham in the UK. - Bank of Ireland’s departing chief executive Richie Boucher has a big fan in Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa who is reported to have presented a number of future opportunities to him. Philip Connolly has a piece this week on the Irish whiskey industry. This week’s chief executive interview is with Jane Gallagher, chief executive of Cogs and Marvel, the Dublin events company she founded with her business partner Roisin Callaghan. David Maloney and Nathan Doyle, the founders of HireUp, an app that allows companies to manage programmes where workers can refer candidates for job opportunities, have just raised a funding round from Enterprise Ireland and some start-up funds. Twitter @RenatusCapital tweets this week: 1.2% - The year-on-year growth in consumer expenditure for Q1 of 2017, according to @CSOIreland. 6.1% - The year-on-year growth in GDP for Q1 of 2017, according to @CSOIreland. 2.15m - The number of people that now have private health insurance, a year-on-year increase of 1.4%, according to @HIAuthority. €72.6bn - The amount of revenues generated by the government in 2016, a year-on-year increase of 2.8%, according to @CSOIreland. 2.6% - The year-on-year rise in UK inflation for the month of June, according to the @ONS. @examinerbiz 6% - Year-on-year rise in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport in the year-to-date; inbound trips from the UK fell by 7% in the same period. €5.9bn - The value of exports to Britain in the first 5 months of the year, compared to €5.2bn for the same five months of 2016. @CSOIreland 3,129 - The number of properties sold between January and June, a year-on-year increase of 17.6%, according to the Property Price Register. €256k - The average price being paid for a house as of June'17, a year-on-year increase of 8%, according to the Property Price Register.


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