CINEMA DISPUTE MEDIATION FAILS - A last-ditch bid to divide five cinemas worth €33 million between the Anderson and Ward families failed to prevent them from taking a long-running dispute to the High Court yesterday. Paul Anderson launched the High Court action to wind up Dublin Cinema Group, which owns the Savoy in Dublin and the Cork Omniplex, in the latest stage in a dispute with fellow shareholder and director, Paul Ward. The Irish Times says that yesterday’s hearing began after Mr Ward rejected an offer from Mr Anderson aimed at resolving a long-running dispute between the two and their families, who own the cinema business. Under the offer’s terms, Mr Ward and his family could have taken ownership of either the Omniplex in Cork, which is worth €15 million, or the Savoy in Dublin, which is worth €8.3 million. Along with that, the Andersons said the Wards could take any of the group’s other three cinemas, the Screen in Dublin and Omniplexes in Santry and Tullamore, Co Offaly, and the “opportunity” to develop a cinema on St Stephen’s Green, which is valued at €2 million. The properties have been independently valued at €33 million. The offer came after Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the High Court ordered both sides on Tuesday to go into mediation. The deadline for acceptance passed yesterday morning.
INVESTOR CASHES OUT OF SMURFIT KAPPA WITH SHARES AT FIVE YEAR HIGH - For the first time in over a decade, Irish packaging group Smurfit Kappa has no major private equity giants as stakeholders in the firm. The Irish Independent says that private equity giant Cinven confirmed yesterday that it had offloaded its entire remaining stake in Smurfit Kappa. The sale came with the Irish group's shares trading at a more than five-year high. The company told the Stock Exchange yesterday that Cinven, which held its stock through a fund called Cinven SK Feeder, sold just under 7.4 million shares on Monday, bringing to nil the number of shares it now holds. Those shares would have been placed with institutions. Smurfit Kappa stock closed up 1.9% in Dublin yesterday at €10.19, having earlier been more than 3% higher. The company also said that it had sold €400m of senior secured notes that mature in 2020. That's more than the €300m it had said on Tuesday that it hoped to raise. Cinven's sale means that three private equity groups that had been stakeholders in Smurfit Kappa have now exited. The other two are CVC and Madison Dearborn. Chicago-based Madison Dearborn backed a €3.7 billion move to take Smurfit Kappa's predecessor, Jefferson Smurfit, private in 2002. In 2005, it acquired Dutch packaging group Kappa, becoming Smurfit Kappa. That brought Cinven and CVC into the shareholder fold.
BANK OF IRELAND TO CLOSE NINE BRANCHES IN NORTH - Bank of Ireland is to close nine branches across Northern Ireland in the coming months, but also plans to invest £10m (€12m) in revamping its remaining business in the North. The move will basically result in BoI’s branch network in the North reducing from 44 outlets to 35, with the nine in Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Kilkeel, Kilrea, Larne, Rathfriland and two in Derry, merging with larger branches from May. The closures represent roughly 7% of Bank of Ireland’s total business in the North, writes the Irish Examienr. All affected staff members will either be re-deployed to the relevant enlarged branches or be given the option of availing of one of the bank’s existing redundancy programmes. The bank’s branch network in the Republic will not be affected by the latest announcement. The plan for the North will also see BoI invest £10m in upgrading its remaining 35 branches, once the network is downsized, via refurbishments. “The Northern Ireland marketplace is competitive and we must service our customers through a full range of contemporary and easily accessible channels. “The changes we are making - particularly the investment in branches - are designed to help us develop our business in what is a core franchise,” Bank of Ireland’s regional manager for Northern Ireland, Sean Sheehan, commented yesterday.
FACEBOOK SPENDING ON LOBBYING SOARS - Facebook increased its lobbying spending by almost 200% in 2012 as it waged battles with Washington policy makers over consumer privacy, data collection and immigration. The social networking company paid $3.99m to influence the US regulatory fabric last year, compared to $1.34m the year before, according to disclosure forms filed with the government writes the Financial Times. “Our presence and growth in Washington reflect our commitment to explaining how our service works, the actions we take to protect the billion plus people who use our service, the importance of preserving an open internet, and the value of innovation to our economy,” Facebook said. Facebook was joined by Google and Microsoft in its lobbying efforts, with those technology giants increasing spending by 70%and 10% respectively. Google spent $16.5m on lobbying last year, up from $9.68m in 2011. Microsoft spent $8.09m compared to $7.34m the year before. “There’s a lot more potential regulation and laws coming out about how these companies do business,” said Alan Webber, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “They’re all very concerned about that, and they’re all thinking, ‘We want to influence the law from our perspective.’”