PROFIT AT AVIVA'S IRISH ARM PLUNGES 89% - Profits at the Irish arm of Aviva plunged last year as the company suffered from the end of a cross-selling agreement with Allied Irish Banks, writes the Irish Independent. The insurer, which is moving its Irish business into its UK division, said operating profit from the Life business in the Republic plunged 89% to £5m (€5.75m) on sales that collapsed 31% to £632m, after it lost the contract with AIB. The life division, which is by far the biggest part of Aviva's business, was part of an Irish sector that "remains a difficult market", Aviva said. In general insurance and health, operating profit in Ireland slid by a third to £29m. The weak Irish numbers were part of a larger trend for Aviva. The UK's second-biggest insurer by market value plunged as much as 15% after it said it slashed its dividend, cut directors' bonuses to zero and froze pay for some 400 top managers. The firm will pay a final dividend of 9 pence a share for 2012, down from 16 pence in the previous year. That cut the total for the year to 19 pence a share, far less than the 25.4 pence expected.
CARTOONS USED TO WOO IRISH INTO ‘STAYCATIONS’ - Sweeping panoramic views ofIreland’s countryside have been replaced by cartoon characters as part of Fáilte Ireland’s new TV campaign to entice Irish people to holiday at home in 2013, the Irish Examiner reports. The brave decision to use an animated series and abandon traditional-style TV commercials to promote Irish holidays is part of the national tourism development authority’s aim to build on the €8.9m domestic trips made by Irish holidaymakers last year. Research by Fáilte Ireland shows that 57% of people plan to take at least one break in Ireland this year The €2m marketing campaign will see the first TV ads air on Mar 11. Fáilte Ireland’s director of marketing, John Concannon, said the home holiday market remained central to the overall performance of the tourism sector, with €1.7bn being spent by domestic tourists in 2012. He said “variety and value” were the key attractions for encouraging people to holiday at home. He welcomed research which showed the number of domestic tourists who were very satisfied with their recent holiday experience in Ireland had risen from 58% in 2009 to 77% last year.
DIAGEO DEMAND BEST LARGE PLACE TO WORK IN IRELAND - Alan Cox, the managing director of Core Media, a media buying group, was named Ireland’s Most Trusted Leader at the 11th Best Workplace Awards last night. The awards were presented by Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin, says the Irish Times. Ms Creighton commended the organisations for “creating high-trust workplaces”, which she said leads to “a clear competitive advantage - especially when trading internationally”. Diageo Demand was named the Best Large Workplace in Ireland for the first time, pushing four-time winner Microsoft into second place. The Great Place to Work list “highlights organisations that create and maintain an environment of trust in the workplace”, according to a spokesman. Confectionery giant Mars Ireland won the Best Medium-sized Workplace award while estate agent Jones Lang LaSalle was Best Small Workplace. Genzyme Ireland received the Great Place to Work Team Award, while the Great Place to Work Ambassador Award went to Valeria Mannu of EMC.
GOLDMAN EXPOSED TO $20 BILLION LOSS IN A CRISIS - Federal Reserve stress tests identified Goldman Sachs as one of the weaker financial groups on Wall Street but gave Citigroup confidence to announce a planned $1.2 billion share buyback, writes the Financial Times. The Fed’s annual assessment of how the biggest financial groups would withstand a severe financial crisis was positive for most US banks, paving the way for increased dividends and share buybacks. Seventeen out of 18 institutions passed stress tests in results announced on Thursday, with only Ally Financial failing to meet minimum capital levels in the hypothetical scenario of a deep global recession and a shock to markets. Citi was first to announce its distribution plan, including a $1.2 billion buyback in the next 12 months, its biggest return of capital since 2006 and its $45 billion government bailout during the financial crisis. Other banks looked less healthy under the Fed’s metrics. Goldman, normally renowned for its resilience, would suffer a $20 billion loss in the depths of the hypothetical crisis and its ratio of core “tier one common equity” capital against risk-weighted assets would fall to 5.8%, compared with a minimum requirement of 5%, the Fed said. Morgan Stanley’s capital ratio would fall to 5.7%. Goldman Sachs said based on its calculations its tier one ratio would be 8.6%.