Morning business news - March 11

Tuesday 11 March 2014 10.36
Morning business news with Brian Finn
Morning business news with Brian Finn

While there has been much focus on healthcare and the costs associated recently, an American company has announced that it is going to enter the Irish market to provide optical and vision benefits to consumers here. 

Jim McGrann, President of VSP Vision Care, said the company had 46,000 corporate clients in the US, many of them multinationals, that wanted to expand their vision care benefits to cover members in other countries around the world. He said he expected there would be interest in the product here, despite much of the controversy surrounding healthcare and its rising costs in ireland.

"It's a very affordable benefit compared to health insurance. People are two to three times more likely to use their vision coverage than to visit a GP. Eye doctors will uncover a range of diseases long before a GP will uncover them. The cost is outweighed by the savings made by uncovering those diseases early," Mr McGrann stated.

Mr McGrann said he expected that there would always be a percentage of the population that would opt not to have laser surgery to correct their vision and would continue to require vision benefits. VSP also recently secured a contract to provide prescription Google glasses. "We'll provide prescription frames. That's required because 40% of people in the world require vision correction. In order to utilise glass, you need prescription so you can see the device properly. We're excited to be part of it," Jim McGrann said.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Zurich Insurance is to cut about 800 jobs globally to save $250m a year by the end of next year. The company said it intends to remove management layers between the group and its business units. Zurich employs about 1,000 people here.

*** ISEQ listed Hibernia REIT has agreed to acquire an 80,000 square foot office building in Dublin's IFSC for €47m. New Century House is currently occupied by an individual tenant, Bank of Ireland, which fully occupies the building. Ten years are remaining on the lease.

*** While much of the attention will be on the European Central Bank today and the tests that will be used to check the strength of 130 European banks, the Bank of England will also be in the spotlight. Governor Mark Carney goes before the UK parliament's Treasury Committee to answer questions on the foreign exchange rigging scandal. More than 20 traders have been fired, suspended or put on leave since suspicions arose in the middle of last year that rates were being manipulated. The bank said last week that an internal review had found no evidence that staff were involved in collusion, but in recent days it has suspended an employee after evidence emerged that some officials knew of concerns that the market was being rigged eight years ago.

*** The Bank of Japan has maintained its massive monetary stimulus programme at an annual pace of 60-70 trillion yen. That equates to around €425-500 billion. It said it believes economic growth and consumer prices remain on track. However, it downgraded its view of exports, warning that external demand will continue to disappoint. The Bank of Japan introduced the stimulus - which has been dubbed "Abenomics" after its prime minister - nearly a year ago. Its intention is to boost inflation to 2% within two years via aggressive asset purchases as it seeks to end 15 years of deflation.

*** E-Bay has halved the total remuneration to its CEO John Donahoe. He was paid $13.8m, including salary and bonus, in 2013, down from $29.7m the previous year. While his basic salary rose by 2%, his annual cash incentive fell by 43% from a year earlier. The company said that while their chief executive had performed well, the firm's financial performance "did not fully meet expectations".

*** The Japan based bitcoin exchange Mt Gox has won temporary bankruptcy protection in the US. A judge in Dallas agreed to protect the firm's assets and temporarily halt two US lawsuits while bankruptcy proceedings take place in Japan.