NEW FINANCE CHIEF TOLD JUNIOR OFFICIAL TO DISREGARD PROPERTY CRASH FEARS - Derek Moran, the senior civil servant selected as the preferred candidate to be new secretary general of the Department of Finance, expressed confidence during the boom that the Irish housing market was in for a “soft landing.” He told a more junior official in his Department to disregard her fears of a property crash in 2006 and to instead toe the consensus line that a crash could never happen, reports the Irish Times. Mr Moran was among a number of senior civil servants in the Department of Finance who were repeatedly emailed between January 2005 and early 2007 by assistant principal officer Marie Mackle, where she expressed her concerns about the prospect of a property crash. He was copied on emails where she said that the “official position” on the housing market in the Department could be badly wrong, based on her own research. She said she did not believe that then taoiseach Brian Cowen’s “soft stance” on the property market was correct. In June 2006, when dealing with a parliamentary question from Labour’s Joan Burton, Ms Mackle was instructed by Mr Moran to ignore her fears and instead issue a positive statement.
SIAC's FRESH €150m CLAIM OVER POLISH VENTURE - The rescued Siac Construction Ltd intends to lodge fresh claims seeking €150m from its ill-fated Polish venture in the next number of months, says the Irish Independent. That is according to new accounts filed by Siac Construction Ltd which show that the firm booked net exceptional gains of €41.6m from the examinership process that Siac exited earlier this year. This contributed to the firm recording a pre-tax profit of €45.12m in the 14 months to the end of February 26th this year and this followed a pre-tax loss of €84.7m in 2012. Revenues at the firm last year reduced sharply from €112.77m to €45.29m. Last February, the Supreme Court approved the implementation of a survival plan for Siac that involved existing shareholders, the Feighery family and new backers, Ducales Trading and Colas to rescue to the troubled firm that was given court protection last October owing €42m to three banks and €26m to trade creditors. The firm's woes arose from a troubled €360m joint venture road scheme in Poland. According to a note attached to the accounts, the firm confirms that it has submitted claims for €64m concerning its Polish business "and is planning to submit claims totalling a further €150m over the coming months".
CHEAPER GAS PRICES ON CARDS - Families struggling to cope with the rising cost of utilities could be set to benefit from cheaper gas prices thanks to the deregulation of Bord Gáis Energy. New Bord Gáis customers could see a decrease of up to €140 in their gas bills if the newly deregulated company aims to compete with the cheapest providers in the market, says the Irish Examiner. Consequently, competitors could also be encouraged to offer cheaper price plans in light of increased competition. Following an announcement in May, the regulation of the gas supplier came to an end on Tuesday, meaning that it is now free to set its own gas rates without the approval of the Commission for Energy Regulation, as was previously the case. This is likely to result in increased competition and lower prices for consumers, according to communications director of price comparison experts bonkers.ie, Simon Moynihan. Bord Gáis Energy’s most likely move may be to offer discounted “dual fuel” rates.
AMAZON EMBROILED IN EU TAX CRACKDOWN - European officials have demanded that Luxembourg hand over documents relating to Amazon’s tax affairs as the online retail giant becomes embroiled in a crackdown that has already drawn in Apple, Starbucks and Fiat’s financial arm, writes the Financial Times. The EU’s competition commission has sent a request for information to the Grand Duchy, where Amazon’s main European operating company is based, about whether its decisions on corporate tax complied with state aid rules, two people familiar with the matter said. “We are looking into what kind of arrangement Luxembourg has with Amazon,” said an EU official. Another EU official said Brussels was conducting fact-finding missions in a number of EU countries as part of its drive to clamp down on “sweetheart” tax deals with large companies. The commission has already launched three in-depth investigations in Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg into whether decisions made about corporate tax to be paid by Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade breached state aid rules. A request for information is the first step that could lead to a full investigation. Amazon’s tax structure has aroused criticism across Europe at a time when EU governments have been forced to impose tough austerity measures by cutting basic welfare benefits to bail out failed banks and cut budget deficits. Evidence that some large multinationals pay virtually no tax has fuelled negative sentiment to US tech companies, which is now translating into tougher regulatory scrutiny across the EU.