JOHNSTON STAFF TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER EMPLOYER PRIOR TO SALE - Johnston Press will no longer directly employ most of its staff in the Republic of Ireland as the media firm appears to prepare to withdraw from the country. The company, which owns hundreds of regional newspapers across Britain and Ireland, had been in talks to off load its 14 Irish titles - including the 'Kilkenny People' and 'Leinster Leader' - to Malcolm Denmark's Mediaforce, writes the Irish Independent. However, yesterday it emerged that under changes to its Irish business, staff here will no longer be employed by Johnston Press. Instead, employees will be moved to a new company, Formpress Publishing Ltd, later this week. Formpress was only incorporated on January 31 and its directors are listed as Marian Hayes and Kieron Patrick Hayes. Formpress are now seen as favourites to take on the Irish titles. A spokesman for Johnston Press declined to comment other than to confirm that staff terms and conditions had not been affected by the switch. Johnston Press has been locked in talks to sell off its Irish business since the end of November.
MICK WALLACE RESTAURANTS FOR UNDER €1m - Two well-known Italian restaurants of Independent TD Mick Wallace are on the market through Knight Frank for less than €1 million, says the Irish Times. The agents are guiding €750,000 for the high-profile Taverna di Bacco restaurant on Lower Ormond Quay and €240,000 Enoteca Torino restaurant in Inchicore. Established in 2005, Taverna di Bacco is the flagship operation for the Italian speciality wine and food establishments created by Mr Wallace, of which there are five in Ireland. Enoteca Torino is among them. The Taverna di Bacco is a tenanted property and represents "an excellent opportunity" to acquire an income generating asset at market rent, according to Knight Frank. The entire property is let to Wallace Calcio Ltd at a rent of €75,000 per annum on a 10- year lease, which started last September. This gives an unexpired term of approximately 9.55 years. There is a rent review at the fifth year based on open market review.
MORE BANKS TO COPY AIB SPLIT PLAN - More Irish banks will begin writing down debts of their troubled mortgage holders, following AIB’s introduction of a limited split mortgage scheme according to ratings agency Fitch. Fitch analyst, Ketan Thaker, said the perfect storm of underwater mortgages and Central Bank targets mean that Irish banks have little choice but to write off some debt, writes the Irish Examiner. "The level of distress in the Irish housing market coupled with the Central Bank’s introduction of targets for banks to find long-term solutions for the majority of their distressed borrowers has made some form of debt writedowns inevitable. We expect some Irish banks to introduce products to provide long-term viable arrangements for co-operative borrowers," he said. Mr Thaker said he couldn’t foresee widescale foreclosures in Ireland as neither the banks nor the borrowers would be well served by a wave of repossessions. "There are some borrowers that just need to change their lifestyle, but a large number of borrowers have suffered a change or loss in their income. There has to be some resolution mechanisms. It is very unlikely that there will be widespread foreclosures in Ireland," he said. Even if a bank was to foreclose on a property and sell it due to the demise in the value of homes, down 45% from peak, the bank would make a bigger loss than if they were to engage with a mortgage holder.
SOCHI OLYMPICS IS A CYBER WAR ZONE, EXPERTS WARN - Foreign visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi are unknowingly wading into a cyber battlefield, the US government and security experts have warned reports the Financial Times. Large international events - packed with diplomats, business leaders and celebrities - have become honeypots for computer hackers, while Russia is home to some of the most feared cyber criminals in the world. The Sochi games have already been plagued by fears of a potential terrorist attack and US officials have warned American supporters and athletes about the dangers of attending the games, which began on Friday. But in a sign of the mounting worries over the cyber threat, the US government issued guidance advising American visitors to Sochi to remove all important information from their computers and devices before they travel. They were also told to assume their communications were being monitored and that they should have “no expectation of privacy” in Russia because of the twin threat from hackers and surveillance from the state.