Today in the pressTuesday 07 January 2014 09.22
IBRC HIGH-PROFILE BORROWERS RANGE FROM BILLIONAIRES TO BANKRUPTS - The list of “sensitive” borrowers who were clients of Anglo Irish Bank or Irish Nationwide range from billionaires to bankrupts, demonstrating just how embedded the bank was among Ireland’s boom-time investors, writes the Irish Times. In total, Anglo, later renamed IBRC and merged with Irish Nationwide, kept three lists of politically exposed persons (PEPs) or high-profile persons (HPPs) to ensure that the State-owned bank did not offer nor could be perceived to have offered any of them special treatment. The three lists comprised borrowers from the bank, investors via its private bank and mortgage holders whom it took over after its merger with Irish Nationwide. The lists, compiled after the bank’s nationalisation in 2009, were used to update IBRC’s board regularly on credit decisions, as well as occasionally to inform the Minister for Finance if special circumstances demanded it. There is no suggestion that borrowers are not repaying their loans, except where otherwise noted. Billionaire Denis O’Brien is named on the lists along with Keith Wood, a former rugby international, with whom the telecoms and media entrepreneur has co-invested in various golf property deals. Entrepreneur Seán Quinn, his family members and former management, including former Quinn Group chief executive Liam McCaffrey, were also put on the lists because of the importance of their business interests to the Irish economy. John Magnier and JP McManus, the horse-racing billionaires, featured at one stage because they were high profile and had borrowings of more than €250 million to buy London commercial property via a company called Sloane Blackfriars.
BANKS FINALLY BEGIN TO OFFER SMEs REAL CHANCE TO TACKLE DEBTS UP TO €10m - Ireland's SMEs - which are shouldering about €25 billion in distressed business loans - should find it easier to deal with multiple lenders under a new protocol that's just been unveiled. The Irish Banking Federation (IBF) has initiated a process where banks can collectively negotiate with small and medium-sized firms in financial difficulty. The Irish Independent says that the aim of the new protocol is to make it easier for financially distressed SMEs with loans from more than one borrower to tackle their debt issues. But Mark Fielding, the head of SME representative group ISME, has claimed the new protocol amounts to little more than a means of facilitating dialogue between lenders and the SME, rather than any ground-breaking initiative. While they form the backbone of Ireland's economy, many SMEs are labouring under high debt levels, much of it amassed during the boom. A big chunk of the borrowings was used by SME owners to invest in property. About 70% of the people in employment here work for an SME. Last year, the Central Bank revealed that half the €50 billion on loan to Ireland's SMEs was in trouble.
AVOCA'S PRE-TAX PROFITS RISE 73% TO €2.07m - Avoca’s retail blend of fashion and food continued to weave strong profits last year for the family firm as pre-tax profits rose 73% to €2.07m, writes the Irish Examiner. New figures show the business reaped the benefits from its continued expansion as Avoca Handweavers Ltd and subsidiaries enjoyed the increase in profits after revenues rose 12% from €49.72m to €55.6m in the 12 months to the end of January 2013. Revenues and profits were boosted by Avoca’s opening of a cafe and store at Malahide Castle in October 2012. Pre-tax profits rose from €1.197m to €2.07m. Numbers employed rose from 589 to 665 with staff costs rising from €16.48m to €18.4m. Avoca designs and manufactures clothing, food, and furnishings from its Wicklow base and has 11 retail stores and cafes in Ireland.
FRENCH GOODYEAR PLANT EXECUTIVES TAKEN HOSTAGE AMID DISPUTE - Trade union members at a Goodyear tyre plant in northern France have taken two of their managers hostage in a pay-related dispute, marking the return of the “boss-napping” phenomenon that plagued the country following the financial crisis. The Financial Times says that the action by the radical CGT workers’ union marks the latest deterioration of relations between workers and management in a country with a long history of feisty stand-offs, and comes just as industrial relations in France appeared to be entering a new, calmer period. Boss-napping became commonplace in 2009, when French employees at companies including Caterpillar, 3M and Sony held their managers hostage to demand higher severance packages and fewer job cuts, although the phenomenon had receded more recently. Representatives of the CGT union on Monday confirmed that they had detained Bernard Glesser, a human resources director, and Michel Dheilly, the factory director, after failing to agree terms with management over the proposed closure of the Amiens plant.