NEW DEBT-FORGIVENESS SCHEME COULD SAVE SMEs BATTERED BY THE DOWNTURN - A debt-forgiveness scheme for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) battered by the crash is among proposals to be examined by a high- level working group being set up by the Government, the Irish Independent has learned. Banks will be asked to cancel some company debts in exchange for shares in even small firms if the debt-for- equity proposal is taken up, according to sources close to the process. The radical plan is seen as one possible way to salvage the balance sheets of small businesses battered by the debt bubble and subsequent seven-year crash. The idea is one of a number on the agenda for the new working group in the process of being established under the umbrella of the State-led Consultative Committee on SME Funding. Examining ways to encourage investment such as potentially revitalising the old tax break-based Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and the possibility of utilising funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) will also be on the table.
'DOUBLE IRISH’ TAX ARRANGEMENTS TO BE TARGETED BY OECD PLANS - The tax structures used by some of Ireland’s largest multinational employers are likely to be brought to an end, a leading figure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said. It is the first such direct comment from a senior figure that tax structures involving Ireland and used by companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft are likely to be brought to an end by the organisation’s so-called Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (Beps) project, writes the Irish Times. Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the centre for tax policy and administration at the OECD, was asked during a webcast from Paris yesterday if structures such as the so-called “double Irish”, where a large proportion of a company’s profits end up in a tax haven such as Bermuda, would be brought to an end as a result of Beps. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking,” he said, “but the answer is yes. Probably. That is what we are expecting. That is what we would be encouraging.” He said the world was changing and the OECD wanted to introduce new measures to prevent some countries taking unilateral action to address the situation. He said he would welcome it if technology companies were making arrangements in anticipation of the system being changed. “I think that would be a smart move,” he said.
M&S STAFF TOLD TO ACCEPT PENSION PLANS - The Labour Court has recommended that unions representing 2,300 workers at Marks & Spencer in Ireland accept management proposals concerning the closure of the firm’s pension scheme, reports the Irish Examiner. Mandate and Siptu have been in dispute with the UK retailer over its proposals to shut down the defined benefit scheme and replace it with a defined contribution scheme. The dispute escalated in December when workers staged a one-day stoppage at M&S’s 17 shops here before both sides agreed to enter talks at the Labour Court. Now, the Labour Court has recommended that unions accept management proposals concerning the pension scheme. It recommended that the staff Christmas bonus for 2014 be reduced by 50% and that parties meet in March/April next year to review the matter to agree bonus arrangements for 2015 on. The court said staff contractually committed to working on Sundays should retain their current premium payments but that all other workers should accept management proposals. The court recommended that M&S and the unions engage on reducing the number of section managers by 37, through a voluntary redundancy process that includes provision for redeployment and reassignment. A spokesman for Mandate and said yesterday that its shop stewards are to recommend to members that they reject the Labour Court recommendation.
US SANCTIONS THREATEN TO WRECK MILEY'S BALL - Miley Cyrus has twerked her way into a geopolitical controversy amid questions over whether the promoter of her sellout concert in Finland risks falling foul of US sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea, writes the Financial Times. The Helsinki venue due to host Ms Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and other US stars in the coming months is owned by a Finnish holding company controlled by three Russians singled out for US retaliation. The concerts Mr Timberlake and Ms Cyrus are due to perform in May and June respectively were booked by Live Nation Entertainment, the US promoter and ticketing agency. However, according to the wording of the new US sanctions and lawyers specialising in this area, Live Nation should theoretically be barred from completing any financial transactions with Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena unless it first receives special dispensation from the US Treasury. Anthony Woolich, a partner at London law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said the legality of Live Nation’s partnership with Hartwall would probably depend on whether or not all the financial transactions involved had taken place before the sanctions list was released.