INTERNATIONAL BANKING INDUSTRY FACING GLOBAL CHALLENGES - Members of the Federation of International Banks in Ireland, which is part of the Irish Banking Federation, are at the Dublin Docklands to discuss how the International Financial Services Centre can support Ireland's growth. The bankers and regulators are going to talk about the future of the international banking sector here, rules and the regulatory environment and how new policies affect banking. Big bank names like Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas are at the event, as well as the European Commission.
Former taoiseach and the current president of IFSC Ireland, John Bruton, says that Ireland needs the international banking industry as about 10,000 people are employed in financial banking services of various kinds here. Mr Bruton says the industry is facing challenges on a global scale and is now contracting after seeing strong growth over the last 30 years. ''This means we have to run faster to stay in the same place,'' he states.
Mr Bruton says the big challenge for Ireland is to deal with the current trends and turn them to our advantage. ''Complying with regulation is a hugely increasing problem for banks, but it could be an opportunity for Ireland if we could become a centre of excellence in compliance in international banking, just as we are a centre of excellence for aircraft leasing fund administration,'' he states. He says we need to develop the skills set in that area, our universities need to be active in that area, as does IDA Ireland and the banks themselves.
Kevin Gardinar, managing director and chief investment officer of Barclays Wealth - who watches Ireland closely and coined the phrase Celtic Tiger - says that people sometimes forget the widespread ''richness of embarrassments'' the capital markets experienced in 2008 and 2009. He points out that very few banking sectors came through that period unscathed and while Ireland certainty had its own difficulties, it was not alone in that respect.
Looking into Ireland from outside, Mr Gardinar says one thing that strikes him is that people again seem to have forgotten what it was that gave the country its strong growth rates to begin with. He says it was nothing to do with house prices, and nothing really to do with the banking sector. Foreign direct investment, low tax rates and flexible labour markets is what attracted a lot of investment to Ireland. He says that story continues and so he is ''quietly optimistic'' about Ireland's future.
MORNING BUSINESS - The UK government's sale of Lloyds Banking Group has started, with investors being offered 6% of the bank. Based on yesterday's closing share price, that stake would be worth £3.3 billion and the deal will cut the government's stake in Lloyds to 32.7%. Shares in Lloyds closed at 77.36 pence yesterday. During Lloyds' bailout in 2008, the government bought shares at an average price of 73.6p. The 6% stake is worth more than the expected market value of all of Royal Mail, which is due to be privatised in the next few weeks. From today big investors will be able to say how many Lloyds shares they want and at what price. The government and its advisors will then look at those offers, decide on a price and divide up the available shares.
*** Ryanair has agreed a new 10-year growth plan with Stansted Airport which will see it increase the number of passengers it carries from the London airport by 50% to over 20 million a year. The deal will account for up to 25% of Ryanair's overall five year growth plans to 2019.
*** Three major British pub chains are now looking at the Dublin market for pubs. Stock market listed Greene King has approached the owners of several big suburban Dublin pubs asking if they would be interested in selling. This comes after JD Wetherspoon, which runs about 800 pubs in the UK, including nine in Northern Ireland, is also targeting pubs outside of the city centre. It is buying Tonic in Blackrock and the 40 Foot in Dún Laoghaire.