MICROSOFT HQ SUBJECT TO €8m COUNCIL LEVY - Microsoft has been granted permission to build a “mega headquarters” building in Leopardstown, subject to contributions of €8.3 million to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The proposed office development on a three-hectare site at South County Business Park on Leopardstown Road, opposite the Icon building, would also have to meet 35 conditions set out by the council’s planning department. Interested parties received the letter from the Planning Authority yesterday granting permission subject to conditions, writes the Irish Times. Three observations were made to the plans, which included one relating to an “inadequate” number of car parking spaces. Green Party councillor Ossian Smyth said there would be room in the “mega headquarters” building to accommodate up to 2,000 staff. “That would pretty much be all of their Irish staff. Microsoft wanted to get everyone in the same building so they could all work closer,” he said. “A lot of changes to the roads and roundabout are needed in Leopardstown to make this area safe for cycling and I’m glad that the permission is conditional on these changes being made before the construction starts. I’m also glad that a large area of forest is to be protected.”
25% OF APPLE'S EUROPEAN WORKFORCE BASED IN CORK - Apple has released new figures that show its Cork facility making up a quarter of its overall European workforce, writes the Irish Independent. The technology giant’s Cork base now employs 4,000 people with a further 2,500 people employed indirectly “in the local area”, according to Apple. Only the UK has more Apple employees than Ireland, although this is due to its 37 Apple retail stores, which employ an average of 100 retail staff per store. The Cork office, which has been open since 1980 and was once primarily a manufacturing site, is Apple’s only global corporate headquarters outside the US. The majority working there are now engaged in non-manufacturing roles such as finance, supply chain management and customer support. Apple’s new figures show that it has redistributed more than $6.5 billion to software and app developers across Europe, which represents a third of what the company has redistributed to developers around the world to date. It says that its operations and technology ecosystems have resulted in 629,000 European jobs at present, around 500,000 of which are app development jobs.
€67m PPI FIGURE 'A DROP IN THE OCEAN' - A leading claims firm has called for a public inquiry into the full extent of payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling in Ireland, forecasting that the true amount owed to consumers is around €500m; nearly eight times more than a recent determination. The Irish Examiner says that earlier this year, a Central Bank-initiated independent review of PPI selling ruled that nearly 80,000 consumers should receive a combined €67m in refunds after being unnecessarily sold the insurance product. However, the head of leading UK claim-back specialist Stanton Fisher said, yesterday, that the PPI issue could go down as the “biggest financial scandal in Irish history”. Brady Collins - the company’s managing director - said the €67m figure was merely “a drop in the ocean” and that €500m was a more accurate amount. He added that even that figure was “a conservative estimate”. His estimate covers PPI cases arising pre- and post-2007, the back-dated limit to which claims can be made due to Ireland’s statute of limitations.
BLACKROCK SOUNDS ALARM OVER IPO QUALITY - The world’s largest institutional investor has sounded the alarm over the quality of European IPOs as hedge funds increase their bets against private equity-backed flotations, after the market for companies going public was soured by a string of high-profile failures, reports the Financial Times. BlackRock said the flotation process needed to be improved, after the best six months for European IPOs since the financial crisis was ruined by poor market debuts from companies including Saga, the UK retirement group, Applus, the Spanish industrial testing business and eDreams Odigeo, the online travel agent. Rob Leach, BlackRock’s head of Emea capital markets, sent an email to bankers telling them to consider “why the first half had been so poor” and asked them “how this trajectory can be altered in the short timeframe leading up to the next raft of IPOs only a month away”. The email from BlackRock comes as hedge funds have been ramping up their short positions in a number of recent private equity-backed listings including Pets at Home, Saga and Just Eat in the UK, according to regulatory filings. By shorting a stock, hedge fund managers are betting that it will fall in value. BlackRock said that a “worrying feature” that was cropping up more frequently was “the failure of companies to achieve stated financial and business targets even after one or two quarters. Any thoughts on the lack of conservatism of projections or ability to diligence these targets also gladly received.”