CENTRIC RENEWS BIDS FOR MOUNT CARMEL HOSPITAL - Healthcare provider Centric Health has made a fresh approach to buy Mount Carmel Hospital in south Dublin, which went into liquidation in January. It follows RAS Medical Group, the owner of the Park West Clinic in Dublin 12 and other health businesses, indicating its interest last week to the hospital’s liquidator RSM Farrell Grant Sparks. The Irish Times says that under any new owner, Mount Carmel will almost certainly not be a maternity hospital but will focus instead on offering other facilities to patients. The Centric plan is understood to envisage the hospital exiting maternity services and providing various other medical services, including its speciality and diagnostic services, as well as offering suites to consultants in St James’s Hospital in Dublin where they can meet private clients. Centric declined to comment when contacted. In December 2013, Metric Capital Partners, a European private capital company, invested €20 million in Centric to help it expand its primary care and diagnostics business. Metric is understood not to be formally involved in the approach at this stage.
AIB STILL SILENT ON REDUCED PENSIONS TAKE-UP - State-owned AIB still won't reveal how many of its senior executives have agreed to take a voluntary pension reduction, says the Irish Independent. Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath has been told by Finance Minister Michael Noonan that the AIB board had made more than 30 requests to former executives to voluntarily cut their pension entitlement. That figure is unchanged from last year, when AIB chairman David Hodgkinson told shareholders at the bank's annual general meeting that the board had written to the executives requesting they surrender part of their pensions. He said at the time that legal requirements prevented him from revealing if any of those executives had agreed to a cut. A spokeswoman for AIB said yesterday that that remains the position. Mr Noonan said last week that "quite a few" responses had been received on foot of the letters to the former AIB bankers and that the process remains "ongoing". Earlier last year, he also refused to say how much in pension cuts had been achieved from the AIB executives.
UK PUB GROUP EYES IRISH LOCATIONS - British pub group Mitchells & Butlers is understood to be sizing up expansion opportunities across Ireland, with up to six potential locations already thought to have been identified in Cork and Dublin. The company owns pub chains like All Bar One and the Irish-themed O’Neill’s, but it is thought M&B is initially focused on introducing its family-themed restaurant concept here, writes the Irish Examiner. The group owns UK eatery chains such as Harvester, Miller & Carter, and Toby Carvery. There is a possibility that the entrance of the All Bar One pub and eatery is being considered. A spokesperson for the group - which counts Irish investors John Magnier and JP McManus among its shareholders, via one of their investment vehicles - said the group doesn’t comment on market rumours specifically, but added: “M&B is always looking at opportunities to grow its business and, so, it continually monitors opportunities across a wide range of markets.” M&B’s entry to Ireland would build on recent talk regarding a number of UK pub groups focusing on the Irish market for their expansion plans.
PORTUGAL TRIES ITS LUCK WITH TAX LOTTERY -The secret to good citizenship, Portuguese tax authorities believe, could lie in giving away luxury cars. In April, they will begin holding weekly lotteries in which 60 “top-range automobiles” a year will be offered as prizes to consumers who do their civic duty by asking cafés, restaurants, car mechanics, hairdressers and other businesses for receipts that include their personal tax number, writes the Financial Times. The aim is to enlist the help of ordinary citizens in combating tax evasion, unfair competition and the black economy, estimated in Portugal at the equivalent of almost a fifth of official national output. By converting sales receipts into lottery tickets, the government believes it can clamp down harder on tax dodgers as part of an effort to meet ambitious deficit targets set under the €78 billion international bailout agreement. Paulo Núncio, secretary of state for fiscal affairs, is confident that offering people the chance to win a sleek new car will lift the number of sales transactions communicated to the tax authorities by 50% this year, with about 2 billion more invoices being registered than last year. The cost to the taxpayer of buying the cars - unofficially estimated at about €90,000 each - will be far outweighed by the increased tax revenue from previously undeclared earnings, the government argues.