IRISH TRADE MISSION TO GULF STATES GETS OFF TO A LUCRATIVE START - Taoiseach Enda Kenny held a number of high level meetings in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh yesterday as an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to the Gulf region began. Representatives of 87 Irish firms are participating in the mission, which continues until Thursday, writes the Irish Times. The delegation will also visit Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Mr Kenny discussed economic and financial matters with officials from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and a number of banks. The governor of SAMA, Saudi Arabia’s central bank commended the Taoiseach for implementing tough reforms required to see Ireland exit its bailout programme. Mr Kenny said the governor had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland in the coming weeks. A Saudi delegation will meet officials from the National Treasury Management Agency to “discuss and understand the progress Ireland has made economically and in restructuring our banking system to deal with the challenges of the future,” he added. Mr Kenny said the possibility of secondments between the Saudi and Irish central banks would be discussed.
BAILED-OUT AIB TREATS STAFF AND SPOUSES TO FOUR STAR HOTEL STAY - Bailed-out bank AIB paid for hundreds of staff and their spouses to stay overnight in a four-star hotel for a retirement course. It brought bank staff and managers from around the country for a one-night stay in the Killashee House Hotel, outside Naas in Co Kildare, plus a meal, reports the Irish Independent. The wives or husbands of the retiring AIB staff were also brought along - on the grounds that they needed advice on how to cope with their partner's retirement. The two-day courses were held for AIB staff of all grades and their spouses over a six-month period. AIB has confirmed that the hotel-based courses were offered to all staff taking early retirement - which amounts to around 1,300 people between 2012 and the first half of last year, according to its annual reports. But it has refused to reveal how many people availed of the opportunity and what the cost was. An AIB source said between 600 and 700 retiring staff had been brought.
IRELAND TO LEAD EURO ZONE GROWTH, POLL FINDS - Ireland’s economy is likely to outperform the wider eurozone over the next five years, a new survey of financial analysts has revealed. The latest member survey from CFA Ireland (the representative body for financial and investment analysts and portfolio managers) found that most respondents feel the eurozone economy will struggle over the course of the next five years, with three quarters saying the region’s inflation rate will remain below 2% during that time. More than 80% of respondents, however, expect the Irish and global economies to grow this year, says the Irish Examiner. This marks a substantial increase on the 50% who felt the same way in both the December 2012 and June 2013 surveys from the CFA. Saying that, however, nearly 75% also feel that the biggest danger to Irish economic growth is an increase in government spending.
ONLINE SALES OVER CHRISTMAS PERIOD HIT RECORD IN BRITAIN - Online shopping reached a new record for British retailers this Christmas, leading to a divergence in fortunes between those high street stores with strong web offerings and those still grappling with how to sell online. Richard Hyman, the independent retail consultant, estimated that online purchases accounted for almost 20% of total retail sales over Christmas, compared with about 15% at Christmas 2012, based on official figures. For non-food, online retail accounted for nearly a third of sales over Christmas, he estimated. “It was a record Christmas for online, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “Click and collect made it a much bigger Christmas than it has ever been before. It allowed consumers to shop right up to the wire.” Christine Cross, the independent retail adviser, estimated that click and collect now accounted for about 30% of all online retail orders. Neil Saunders, managing director of Conlumino, the retail research group, said: “Click and collect has been a real boon to online.” But as well as click and collect, Ms Cross said online purchasing was driven by discounts appearing on the web before they were made available in stores, more Britons shopping on mobile phones and tablets and more confidence that purchases would be delivered in time for Christmas.