Morning business news - March 26

Wednesday 26 March 2014 15.04
Morning business news with Emma McNamara
Morning business news with Emma McNamara

The Restaurants Association of Ireland is warning that more restaurants will close and more jobs will be lost, especially in rural Ireland, if something is not done to reduce local authority rates. The Association holds its AGM today in Dublin and says that rising rates are destroying small restaurants in rural communities. 

Adrian Cummins, the chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, says that restaurants here pay over €23,000 a year in rates. Between €5,000 to €12,000 is also spent on water charges. Mr Cummins says this level of charges is unsustainable and his association is calling for a complete review of the regulatory burden on the restaurant business. Pointing out that the country has a three speed economy, he says that Dublin restaurants are doing really well with the decision to keep VAT at 9% a huge help. But the situation is much tougher in small towns and rural areas around the country, with local authorities there doing nothing over the last five years to help small businesses, he adds.  Defending the decision to hold the association's meeting in Dublin, Mr Cummins says that a lot of international delegates are just flying in for the one day and would not have time to travel down the country.

Ami Hovstadius is the Communications Manager for Visit Sweden and she is in Dublin today for the Restaurant Symposium. Ms Hovstadius says that the restaurant business there has faced many challenges and when the Swedish government launched the campaign for Swedish food, many people laughed. She said that the Swedish people had forgotten how to appreciate their own food. But as the new campaign gathers pace, the industry is facing another challenge of finding enough qualified chefs to work in the new restaurants - 2,000 new restaurants have opened in Sweden in the recent past. She says that if a country is really serious about marketing itself as a "food destination", several bodies have to work together - the restaurant industry, farmers and food producers and tourism bodies. Ms Hovstadius says that Ireland has a good food industry already and there is great potential for future growth, adding that the key is for the various interested bodies to work together.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Facebook is to buy Oculus VR, a Californian company which specialises in virtual reality products, for around $2 billion. The start-up's flagship product, the Oculus Rift, is a goggle-like "immersive" headset for video gaming, which was developed with funds raised through crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said Oculus' technologies could "change the way we work, play and communicate". The Oculus Rift has yet to be released, but more than 75,000 orders for development kits have already been placed, according to Facebook. Oculus' crowdfunding campaign raised $2.4m, ten times the amount originally looked for.

*** US chipmaker Intel has stepped up its investment in wearable technology with the purchase of of Basis Science, a firm known for its health tracking services and devices. The start-up from San Francisco will be merged with Intel's New Devices Group, which focuses on wearable computing and connected devices. Intel did not disclose the value of the deal. But according to industry analysts the acquisition was worth $100m. Basis Science is known for its Basis band, which monitors heart rate and calorie-burning, among other things.

*** London-based game developer King raised $500m from an Initial Public Offering late yesterday, valuing the company at $8 billion and making it one of the most valuable European technology companies to go public in years. King was founded in Sweden in 2002, and like Zynga, offers a range of "casual" games for free on mobile devices, Facebook and its own website. Around 4% of players pay for in-app upgrades and virtual items to help them progress through a game.