ULSTER BANK TELLS CUSTOMERS THEY MUST REPAY €30,000 AFTER MORTGAGE ERROR - Ulster Bank is demanding that more than 1,000 customers pay back around €30,000 each after a blunder involving under-charging on mortgage accounts, reports the Irish Independent. The error involves at least 1,300 customers from whom a total amount of around €41m was not collected from their accounts over a period believed to span between three and four years. Those who have already been notified are reported to be "distraught" while it is thought that many of the customers have not yet received notification. It is the latest scandal involving Ulster Bank, which caused widespread disruption in the middle of last year when its IT systems went down for weeks on end, leaving many people without wages or cash. When contacted by the Independent, Ulster Bank refused to reveal how many customers were affected, over what period the error had occurred, or what amounts were involved. A brief statement said: "Ulster Bank self-identified an under-payment error affecting some mortgage accounts. All impacted customers are being contacted, given time to make repayments and (can) choose from a number of repayment options." The bank also refused to say whether it would be charging interest on the repayments it is now seeking.
SHAKE-UP LOOMS AS HOTEL INDUSTRY TAKES STOCK - A new shake-up in the hotel industry is being predicted as tax breaks on hotels which opened seven years ago run out between now and the end of the year, writes the Irish Times. Fifty-one hotels - the highest number in one year - opened in 2006 with capital allowance tax incentives. Owners and banks which kept some troubled hotels in business for fear of tax clawbacks may now decide to act, predicts Maureen Doyle, Ireland director of Christie + Co, a firm which advises companies in the hospitality/leisure sector. Since the crash, a fall in tourist numbers and oversupply has seen more than 100 hotels go into receivership or out of business altogether. High profile hotels affected by the crash include the five-star Ritz Carlton in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, which went into liquidation last November, and Ashford Castle in Co Mayo, for sale for €25 million after going into receivership in 2011. A US investor is reported to be about to buy the Ritz. Already, 20% of hotels which got accelerated capital allowances from 2005 onwards are in receivership. About 100 hotels - 10-12% of some 900 in the country - have gone into receivership in the past three years, “and some 30 are reported to have closed”, says Christie + Co. Most hotels in receivership are still trading, managed by groups such as Dalata, Tifco and BDL. “It’s no secret that Ireland was the victim of a large number of hotels being built for non-commercial reasons in non-commercial locations,” says the firm. Research by Christie + Co shows that Laois, Mayo, Carlow and Galway have the highest number of hotels in receivership as a proportion of the total number of hotels in those counties.
DEUTSCHE BANK HAS TO DELAY ANNUAL REPORT - Deutsche Bank is being forced to hold an extraordinary shareholder meeting and delay its annual report after investors challenged decisions reached by last year’s annual meeting, writes the Financial Times. The decision in effect to rerun parts of last year’s shareholder gathering is another sign of the warfare between Deutsche Bank and some shareholders, who have launched legal challenges against Germany’s flagship bank. The lender said on Tuesday it would hold an extraordinary meeting on April 11 to confirm three resolutions that were passed with large majorities at last year’s shareholder gathering but have been challenged in the courts. The resolutions are all legally required. They include a decision to appoint KPMG as the bank’s auditor and the appointment of some supervisory board members. Deutsche Bank said it would delay publication of its annual report - when it will reveal any fresh details of litigation against it, as well as bonuses paid to senior executives - until mid-April. Legal challenges against the bank’s annual meeting resolutions have been part of a strategy used by associates of the late Leo Kirch, the media tycoon who blamed Deutsche Bank for precipitating the collapse of his business empire more than a decade ago.
BUSINESS BODY SAYS CRISIS OFFERS EUROPE OPPORTUNITIES - The financial crisis offers Europe an opportunity to ensure a prosperous future with a competitive industry and services sector that is fit to face the future, according to the director general of BusinessEurope, Markus Beyrer. The Irish Examiner took the helm at the Brussels-based organisation on January 1, as the group battles with change and the effects of the crisis. He hopes his experiences in his home country of Austria will help ease the way. Competitiveness is the key to emerging from the crisis but the EU has just a relatively short window in which to make the changes necessary, he believes. Due to address IBEC’s CEO conference in Dublin tomorrow, which focuses on the European business model, the former chief economic adviser to Austria’s former chancellor Dr Wolfgang Schüssel said that people are at least willing to agree on the headlines. “This was not the same before the crisis. But the time slot is not long, we have this year only in which to move things forward”, Mr Beyrer said. While everyone has agreed for years that competitiveness is key, it has not been not high enough on the list in the past.