BANK OF SCOTLAND'S BURLINGTON STAKE - The Irish Times says Bank of Scotland (Ireland) has taken a 30% equity stake in the Burlington Hotel project led by Bernard McNamara, the acquisitive developer and construction magnate who bought the property for €288m last month.

The paper says the bank is understood to have agreed to co-develop the hotel site with Mr McNamara in a joint venture deal agreed earlier this week. It will take a significant equity stake in the initiative and provide debt-financing for the development and land acquisition costs.

This suggests the bank's exposure is well in excess of €300m, according to the Irish Times. Characterised as an 'integrated finance' arrangement, the paper says the deal is unusual in the Irish market in that the bank will combine the roles of lender, project participant and equity player.


RIVERDEEP DEAL TO CUT INTEREST BILL - The Irish Independent reports that Riverdeep has managed to refinance almost half of a $1.07 billion bridging facility taken out following the company's $3.5 billion reverse takeover of US educational publisher Houghton Mifflin last year.

The paper says initial plans to refinance $250m - or a quarter - of the facility were put on ice earlier this year following the resignation of the company's auditor, Ernst & Young.

'The refinancing will shave $10m a year from the company's interest bill,' the Indo quotes a spokeswoman for the company as saying. But, the refinancing has prompted Moody's to downgrade its senior secured ratings for Riverdeep's debt down one level to B1.


US MAY TAKE ON BAE SAUDI PROBE - The Times reports that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is in talks to establish whether it can launch a formal inquiry into alleged bribery and corruption in BAE Systems.

The paper says Mike O'Brien, Britain's Solicitor-General, acknowledged that the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has met the DoJ to discuss allegations of corrupt practices by BAE.

The DoJ is understood to be looking into whether it has the jurisdiction to pursue BAE over payments allegedly made to win defence contracts from foreign governments. The British Government terminated a similar investigation by the SFO in December amid fears that it would cause a breakdown in relations with Saudi Arabia.


NUCLEAR WINTER DECISION FROM BRITAIN - The Guardian quotes British government sources as saying that fears that Britain could be plunged into an energy crisis by 2015 will result in the green light being given by Christmas for a new generation of nuclear power stations.

With more than a fifth of the UK's electricity generating capacity due to be closed down in the next eight years, the paper says British ministers are planning to fast-track Labour's energy strategy with the publication of two white papers this month.

The Guardian quotes sources as saying that the British government would mount a full public consultation process over the coming months, after which a final decision would be taken. But it adds that ministers have been persuaded of the need to act quickly.