IMF TO SHUT OFFICE HERE AS NORMALITY KICKS IN - The International Monetary Fund's man in Ireland, Peter Breuer, is leaving to return to Washington and the IMF's office here is to be shut. Mr Breuer, who has been based in Ireland for three years, is expected to return to the US capital by the end of July. No new IMF representative will be posted to Dublin, the fund told the Irish Independent. The IMF office here will be closed in the coming months. It's another sign of the normalisation of Ireland's economy after the bailout, although the €22.5 billion lent by the fund still has to be repaid. The first payments are due next year. Post-programme surveillance will continue with twice-yearly review missions here. As the IMF's man on the ground, Mr Breuer became one of the most high-profile names associated with Ireland's bailout programme. The IMF is due to carry out an in-depth review of its performance in Ireland and evaluate what lessons can be learned from the experience. Yesterday, however, in what was likely to be his final public address before his departure, Mr Breuer highlighted some of the "preliminary" lessons learned from the bailout.
SIR ANTHONY O'REILLY DESCRIBED AS 'INSOLVENT' BY AIB - Sir Anthony O’Reilly, once the State’s richest man, was called “insolvent” by AIB as it had a judgment for €22.6 million entered against him in the Commercial Court yesterday, says the Irish Times. Judgment for the same amount was also entered against two of the former billionaire’s investment firms, Indexia Holdings and Brookside Investments Ltd yesterday. The Commercial Court heard that Sir Anthony owed €195 million to eight banks and one fund. His debt to AIB represents 11.6% of his overall personal liabilities to creditors, and the bank said it believed his overall debts were greater than his remaining assets. One-time billionaire businessman Sir Anthony O’Reilly has had judgment for €22 million entered against him at the Commercial Court. He has other borrowings of some €195 million, the court heard. AIB said yesterday it was tired of “forbearance” and was worried it would be pushed to the “back of the queue” if it didn’t move against O’Reilly. Michael Cush, counsel for Sir Anthony, said his client did not object to the entry of judgment but asked for a six-month stay of registration and execution to allow for the orderly completion of a sale of his unsecured assets and his 750-acre estate in Castlemartin, Co Kildare. Castlemartin, the court heard, had already received “expressions of interest” from potential buyers. The estate includes a church and a family graveyard where the former rugby international’s parents and two grandchildren are buried.
EU BECOMES WORLD'S LARGEST EXPORTER OF FOOD - The European Union became the largest exporter in the world of agricultural and food products last year, with increased demand particularly from developing countries. The exports of milk, pig-meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables but in particular of wheat and barley, increased significantly, says the Irish Examiner. Total agri-food exports were worth €120 billion, with China showing the biggest increase in imports from the EU; China was the second fastest growing market behind Saudi Arabia. Exports to the US saw only a modest growth while imports, especially of animal feed increased sharply, according to the Commission’s annual report. Overall the growth in EU agri-food exports at 5.8%, was slower than in 2012 when the increase was 12% and 17% in 2011. The EU agricultural trade balance was increased to €18.6 billion last year, attributed to higher exports, as imports remained roughly the same according to the report.
FRANCE SEEKS GERMANY'S SUPPORT ON BNP PARIBAS CASE - France has sought backing from its European partners as it seeks to limit US punishment of BNP Paribas for breaking US sanctions, saying “disproportionate” action against its biggest bank could pose a systemic risk to the sector, writes the Financial Times. President François Hollande has discussed the case with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and French ministers have also taken it up with other European governments, including the UK, a senior French official said. The diplomatic manoeuvring comes as the outlines of a likely settlement between BNP and a group of US authorities is taking shape ahead of an announcement that could come as early as next week. The bank is expected to pay a fine of $8-$9 billion, submit a guilty plea and agree to the termination of more than a dozen employees, several of whom have already left the bank, people familiar with the matter said. US authorities are also seeking to temporarily suspend the bank’s ability to clear US dollar transactions - a crucial element for much of its international wholesale banking activity. Negotiations continue on exactly how this suspension will work, but US authorities aim to avoid any impact on the bank’s large US retail network, BancWest, the people said.