TROIKA APPLIES PRESSURE OVER BUDGET DEFICIT - The Government is under increasing pressure from the bailout troika over its fiscal targets as updated forecasts from the European Commission suggest it is likely to miss its end-year deficit target, reports The Irish Times.
The news comes as Fine Gael and Labour push this week for a final settlement on the scale of cutbacks and tax measures to be adopted in this month’s Budget.
In a draft report circulated last night to members of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, the commission projected an end-year deficit of 7.6% of economic output, “just slightly above” the programme ceiling of 7.5% of GDP.
“This reflects mostly the effect of lower economic growth and related downward reassessment of tax revenue,” the report stated. The commission said the figures underlined the case for “careful budget execution”.
“Other deficit-increasing risks bear close monitoring, including potential overruns in the health budget in the second half of 2013 due to delayed implementation of certain budgetary measures.”
The commission implicitly urged the Government not to dilute the recommended €3.1 billion “adjustment” target next year.
Referring to the €3.1 billion, the commission said “the recommended structural consolidation should be maintained”.
By saying “interest savings should be used to accelerate debt reduction”, the commission made the case to avoid using savings from the deal to scrap the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes to ease the retrenchment rate.
Circulation of the commission’s report, summing up the troika’s quarterly visit to Dublin in July, comes amid increasing expectations that the Government will settle on a target below €3 billion for Budget 2014.
GOOGLE ON COURSE FOR EU SETTLEMENT - Google's main antitrust fight in Europe is on course to end in settlement, reports The Financial Times, after Brussels gave a favourable assessment of the US group's improved offer to abide by legal restrictions when it presents search results.
After months of speculation that talks were on the brink of collapse, Joaquín Almunia, the EU competition chief, has announced a significant progress that suggested a settlement will address his concerns about Google skewing results to its own advantage.
The US internet giant's latest offer to the European Commission closes loopholes and boosts the prominence and information provided in mandatory links to rival services, such as shopping or restaurant sites.
Given the improvements, Mr Almunia is open to pursuing a pre-charge deal, but the final decision will be subject to Google submitting data to show the effectiveness of the promises it is making. Rivals will be informally consulted during that process, but there will be no formal "market test" on the draft pact.
Mr Almunia's decision moves a significant way to winding-up a three year EU probe - triggered by complaints from a cluster of tech rivals including Microsoft - that threatened to drag Google into a long legal battle that could end with big fines and intrusive restrictions on its business.
Last summer Mr Almunia ordered draft charges against Google to be updated after a draft settlement - published in April after more than a year of talks - drew scorn from tech groups that claimed it was "worse than doing nothing".
However even with the extra concessions, the deal will probably be a hard sell to the anti-Google camp, which includes consumer organisations and lobby groups such as FairSearch and the Microsoft-backed Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace.
Talks on adjustments to the latest Google offer were finely balanced and only concluded yesterday. It is the first time the US group has yielded to an antitrust enforcement agency over its search business and agreed to legally binding restrictions on how its website is presented.
Yet the deal will bitterly disappoint Google's harshest critics, who put pressure on antitrust investigators in the US and in Brussels, hoping they would force Google to hive-off its search business or ban it from favouring its own in-house services.
9% RISE IN PRE-TAX PROFITS AT MCAFEE’S IRISH UNIT - Pre-tax profits at the main Irish unit of software maker McAfee jumped 9% last year, according to The Irish Independent.
The McAfee company, which is now a unit of Intel, saw pre-tax profit at the Irish division rise 2% to €23.4m last year as revenues climbed to €390m.
Accounts just filed show that Cork-based McAfee Ireland continues to add to its Irish workforce with 29 jobs added, bringing the total to 338.
In February 2011, Intel agreed to buy McAfee's global operation for $7.68bn (€5.6bn) in cash in an effort to boost its security offerings.
According to the directors' report for 2012, the Irish firm increased its pre-tax profits "as a result of both improved turnover and operating margin".
The directors state that the firm's gross margin increased from 31% to 34% through 2012.
The firm's spend on R&D during last year totalled €9.1m compared to €5.4m in 2011.
RECEIVERSHIP OF MICK WALLACE FIRM COST OVER €420,000 - Costs associated with the receivership of flagship assets owned by independent TD Mick Wallace’s main construction firm, M&J Wallace now top €420,000, according to The Irish Examiner.
This has resulted in a surplus of only €44,362 at the end of the latest period covered by receiver Declan Taite of RSM Farrell Grant Sparks (FSG).
In May 2011, ACC Bank appointed Mr Taite to three of Mr Wallace’s main property assets, the Italian Quarter on Dublin’s Ormonde Quay, an apartment complex near Croke Park and development land in Rathgar.
According to the receiver’s extract lodged with the Companies Office, it states the eleven residential apartments and nine commercial units located in Dublin 1 have an estimated value of €3m.
The development site with planning permission at Rathgar, Dublin 6, has an estimated value of €1m. The new extract shows while the receiver has received €354,823 in receipts, mainly through rent, costs under the receivership total €420,324. Receiver’s fees are not disclosed.
The receiver had €44,362 in cash on hand at the end of May 16, 2013. This is according to documents lodged by receiver, RSM Farrell Grant Sparks lodged with the Companies Office.
In the six-months between November 17, 2012 and May 16, 2013, Mr Taite recorded a €139,494 deficit as costs associated with the receivership topped €249,357, with receipts totalling €109,863.
The largest proportion of costs is not broken down, with €235,220 coming under the heading of ‘other costs’.
The surplus of €183,856 for the first receiver period, taken with the deficit of €139,494 from November to May, results in the overall surplus of €44,362. At its peak the business was worth €80m.