Today in the pressFriday 30 May 2014 12.31
BANK SAYS: PAY WHAT YOU CAN, THEN WALK AWAY FROM MORTGAGE - Over-stretched borrowers are to be given a chance to clear their mortgage debts if they sell their homes or investment properties and pay off what they can of the outstanding balance. Permanent TSB is testing the new scheme, which could offer a way out of a debt mire for thousands of people, the Irish Independent has learnt. It will facilitate significant write-offs and bypass personal insolvency deals, which are expensive, can last up to six years and impose strict limits on living expenses. The new Permanent TSB deal will also allow borrowers to avoid bankruptcy, which still has a massive stigma attached to it despite the borrowing crisis and a shorter time frame before people are discharged. People who took out loans for investment properties that they are no longer able to meet the repayments on are also likely to see some merit in the new offer. But the deals are also being offered to families with homes who have been identified by the bank as being unable to ever meet the payments agreed to during the housing boom. A spokesman for the bank said: "The trial is open to both residential and buy-to-let customers." Permanent TSB's asset management unit (AMU), which handles all arrears cases, is contacting people with residential mortgages and those with buy-to-let loans who they feel have no choice but to sell their properties. Typically, these people have been financially flattened by the downturn.
IRISH AVIATION REGULATOR AIMS TO CUT AIRPORT CHARGES BY 22% - The State’s aviation regulator is proposing that Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) cut passenger charges by 22% over the next five years to €8.35, in a move that the company argues would result in the loss of almost 650 jobs. The Commission for Aviation Regulation (Car) proposed in a consultation document issued yesterday that the DAA slash the amount it charges airlines for passengers travelling through the airport by 4.8% a year from their current maximum of €10.68 a head to €8.35 by 2019. The commissioner, Cathal Guiomard, said the savings are based on the fact that the airport’s running costs are lower than predicted in 2009, when the charges were last set, while the numbers using it are likely to grow by 3% a year to 24 million in 2019. “We propose to pass through the benefits of these developments to airport passengers beginning in 2015,” Mr Guiomard said. Airlines generally pass on airport charges to their customers and the commissioner said yesterday that the reductions should have some impact on air fares. However, the DAA wants to be allowed to cap the figure at €13.50, which it argues is a fair economic return. The company says it will not charge this amount and will instead leave its prices “flat in real terms”. Earlier this month, its chief executive, Kevin Toland, pledged that the DAA would not seek any increase beyond inflation.
UK LESSON FOR STRYKER AND PFIZER - Twice in two weeks, US companies interested in buying UK groups have walked away after coming up against British takeover rules, says the Financial Times. On Wednesday, Stryker, the medical device maker, said it did not intend to make an offer for Smith & Nephew. Just days earlier Pfizer had abandoned efforts to engage with AstraZeneca on its £55 per share approach to the British pharma group. The two cases are different, but in each instance, the deadline for the possible acquirer to “put up or shut up” was significant. And in each case, the potential bidder seemed to be expecting the takeover regime to facilitate deal discussions, but its effect was to curtail talks. Stryker’s statement came as Smith & Nephew’s share price rose 17% after the FT reported that the US orthopaedic products group was working on a bid. So the Takeover Panel, which regulates the dealmaking process, said Stryker had to be clear about its intentions. Even though Stryker had been in the early stages of preparing an approach, if the US group had said it intended to bid, it would have had just 28 days to make a formal offer. Likewise, Pfizer also had only 28 days to strike a deal or secure AstraZeneca’s agreement for more talks after going public with its approach on April 28.
FOOTBALL WORLD CUP TEAM WORKS ON KEEPING BRITAIN'S KETTLES BOILING - While Roy Hodgson and his colleagues fine-tune tactics for the England squad before next month's World Cup a rather less glamorous team is also preparing - to keep Britain's lights on during the matches. Managers at the National Grid are trying to assess what extra power might be needed to cope with a surge in electricity demand as kettles are brewed and lights turned on during England's opening and late-night game against Italy, writes today's Guardian. These "TV pick-ups" can be highly significant: the Grid estimated an extra 2,800 megawatts of power - the equivalent of more than one million kettles - were needed during the England v West Germany World Cup semi-final in July 1990. "We are expecting lots of people to watch on television and we have a forecasting team of four or five working on this now. On the day there will be system managers in the room with them constantly watching and assessing demand. But ahead of that we will be forecasting the weather and trying to work out whether people will watch in the pub or at home so we can be ready to deal with the likely extra demand," said a Grid spokesman. The company's forecasters have already pulled out data from previous big games such as the England quarter-final against Brazil in June 2002 when 2,570MW of power was needed at halftime - even though it was 9.15 in the morning. Even during the group stages of the same World Cup when England laboured to a goalless draw against Nigeria in Osaka, Japan, the equivalent of 940,000 extra kettles were boiled at half time, according to the Grid.