DUN LAOGHAIRE TESTS THE WATERS AS PLANS ADVANCE FOR FIRST JUMBO CRUISE LINER BERTH - Plans are progressing for Ireland’s first-ever jumbo cruise ship berth at Dun Laoghaire, writes the Irish Independent. Authorities in the south Dublin maritime town have launched a geological study of their harbour’s seabed and ramped up their marketing efforts, while planning permission is expected within the year, meaning work on the €15m project could begin before the end of 2014. The cruise ship berth will be a first for Dublin and the first to allow jumbo or “next generation” cruise ships to come to shore in Ireland. Cruise ships are currently forced to anchor off the coast if they wish to stop at the capital, since there are no suitable docking facilities available. Their passengers must then be transported to the shore using smaller boats known as “tenders”. This is too time-consuming for larger cruise ships with thousands of passengers, meaning they rarely visit Ireland.
BANNATYNE CLAIMS TAXPAYER MISSED OUT ON €30m BY NOT ACCEPTING OFFER - Duncan Bannatyne, the Scottish entrepreneur and star of BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den , has said the Irish taxpayer has lost out on up to £25 million (€30.5 million) after his loan was sold at a discount to Lone Star, an international investment fund. Mr Bannatyne told The Irish Times he believed from reports his loan was sold for between 70 pence and 75 pence in the pound as part of a bundle of other loans acquired by Lone Star. He said he had previously made an offer of 97 pence in the pound to pay off the debts of his fitness chain of £115 million, but this had been rejected by KPMG, the liquidator of Anglo Irish Bank. “Why are you and your fellow countrymen allowing Lone Star make a profit of £25 million?” he asked. “I owe the money so I’ll repay it but I wouldn’t be happy if I was you and the taxpayers of Ireland. I would be knocking on the doors of parliament asking Mr Noonan what is going on.”
'GOLD CONTENT' AT BORDER MINE - Conroy Gold and Natural Resources has moved a significant step closer to realising its goal of establishing a second gold mine in the border region, says the Irish Examiner. The Dublin-based firm is on course to establish Ireland’s first commercial gold mine at its Clontibret prospect in Monaghan over the next three years. The company yesterday announced that an independent structural study at its Clay Lake target in Armagh has suggested the potential for “high tonnage and overall gold content”. Results of the survey confirm the presence of a gold-bearing anticline structure. “This is very encouraging and, indeed, exciting news as in addition to the widths of gold which have been encountered during drilling, it adds further geological evidence that the Clay Lake gold target could have the potential for high tonnage and overall gold content,” company chairman Richard Conroy said.
BLACKSTONE NEARS DEAL TO BUY INTO VERSACE - US buyout house Blackstone is nearing agreement to buy a minority stake in Italian luxury group Versace, in a move highlighting private equity groups’ growing interest in high-end fashion brands, says the Financial Times. The Versace family, led by creative designer Donatella Versace, was on Wednesday expected to grant exclusivity to the New York-based fund manager to purchase a 20% stake in the company, said two people with knowledge of the talks. Blackstone’s offer may value the Milan-based designer at as much as €1 billion including debt, one of the people said. A deal has yet to be finalised, however, one of the people cautioned. Versace and Blackstone declined to comment. If the transaction goes ahead as planned, it will be Blackstone’s first investment in luxury fashion. The group competed against Investcorp, the Bahrain-based investment firm that formerly owned Gucci, in the final stretch of the negotiations this week. US buyout firm CCMP also vied for the asset until recently, people close to the situation have said.