'ULYSSES' YACHT SAILS INTO THE MIDST OF NAMA NEGOTIATIONS - Developer Johnny Ronan is in discussions with the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) about a luxury yacht worth more than €25 million as he prepares a plan to repay his personal company debts of €250 million to it. The 150ft-plus yacht called The Ulysses is owned by a trust that Mr Ronan set up before the foundation of Nama in 2010. This places the vessel legally outside both his control and the State property agency, writes the Irish Times. Mr Ronan told Nama of the existence of the trust four years ago when his company and personal loans were transferred over to the agency but it has not been known publicly before. Debts related to the yacht are owed to another bank, further complicating matters. Nama has repeatedly pressed Mr Ronan to unwind the trust and sell off the vessel. The boat is being rented out to millionaires primarily in the Mediterranean for hundreds of thousands of euro a week. Nama has previously convinced some developers to unwind trusts in return for its continued support or to facilitate their exit from the agency. In recent weeks Mr Ronan has approached Nama to buy out his loans for their full value with the backing of Development Securities, a UK property firm. His assets include Dublin offices including Treasury Buildings, which houses Nama.
DAA SAYS CORK NEEDS DUBLIN AIR LINK - The head of Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has said that a new route between Dublin and Cork is needed if the regional airport is to be revived, says the Irish Independent. The DAA is working to find an airline partner to operate the route. "What Cork needs more than anything is a Dublin route, which will strategically connect it to the emerging secondary hub," DAA chief executive Kevin Toland told 'Airport Business' magazine. "This route will do more than almost anything we can do to transform Cork's fortunes," he said. Passenger traffic at Cork airport fell significantly in recent years due to the downturn and the ending of the Cork-Dublin route in 2011. It had been operated at the time by Ryanair, but it was pulled because it was uneconomical. The number of passengers passing through Cork airport was 2.3 million last year compared with 2.77 million in 2009. "While the position in Cork is down by some 20% since its peak, it could easily have been 30%," Mr Toland said in the interview. "Cork's tourism potential is tremendously strong, with a hinterland which extends to Kerry and Tipperary - only 30% of traffic is inbound, so frankly we have to hold our nerve and build up the business."
WORK PERMITS LAW WILL HELP ATTRACT TECH GRADUATES - The Government has introduced work permits legislation to make it easier to attract technology graduates to Ireland. The initiative aims to address the growing shortage of skilled informational and communications technology personnel, says the Irish Examiner. Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said: "The legislation we are publishing today will make a major contribution to the overall reforms we are delivering in the employment permits area. It codifies and clarifies the law in this area to make the system more transparent and obligations clearer to businesses and other stakeholders. It also makes the system more flexible and responsive to changing economic circumstances, so that our employment permits system can respond quickly and allow our economy benefit from quickly emerging opportunities." Mr Bruton said that because of planning in the education system, three in four jobs available in the technology sector will come from Irish third-level institutions. The reform of the work permit system is aimed at plugging remaining gaps. The legislation, which will be introduced by the summer, will involve a 58% reduction in the processing time for employment permits; improvements in the appeals process and the number of appeals; as well as a broadening of the high-skilled eligible occupations list.
SAGA GEARS UP FOR ROAD TO IPO - Insurance-to-travel group Saga is putting the finishing touches to a multibillion-pound flotation, joining a flock of companies seeking to tap welcoming stock markets, writes the Financial Times. The over-50s specialist is set to file a formal intention to float on the London Stock Exchange as soon as next week after completing a debt refinancing in recent days, people familiar with the matter said. The listing, expected to give Saga an enterprise value of about £3 billion, will mark a long-awaited exit for its private equity backers Permira, CVC Capital and Charterhouse. It is expected to result in a bumper payday for Andrew Goodsell, chief executive of parent company Acromas, which also owns the AA, and staff, who own a 20% stake. Saga’s plan comes after it wrote to its 2.8 million customers over the weekend inviting them to take part in the share sale, and launched an accompanying television ad campaign. Customers are set to receive preferential treatment over other retail investors. They may be placed ahead in the queue - making them more likely to receive the allocation they requested - and receive free shares if they subscribe. Saga is hoping the listing will raise at least £430m, which it plans to use partly to reduce its £1.25 billion debt burden.