UBER SHIFTS DUBLIN FOCUS FROM HACKNEYS TO TAXIS - Uber, the mobile app that connects passengers with private cars for hire, says it has doubled the size of its business in Dublin since it launched its low-cost UberX service in June.
It is considering launching Uber in other Irish cities, such as Cork, writes the Irish Times. Licensing rules introduced following the deregulation of the taxi industry here in 2000, however, are forcing it to tailor its approach to the Irish market. In other markets, Uber generally signs up thousands of drivers of licensed private hire limousines and hackney vehicles to operate its service, usually to the chagrin of taxi drivers who have demonstrated in droves against its alleged bypassing of the taxi regulation system in cities including Barcelona and London. But in Ireland, most of these type of licences were cheaply swapped for full taxi licences after deregulation, cutting off Uber's usual driver supply route for its high-end Uber Black limousine service, which it launched in Ireland in January. Instead, Uber Dublin has recently switched its attention to signing up fully-licensed taxi drivers for UberX, which uses lower-end vehicles typical of traditional taxis but at rates "10 to 30%" less than metered fares.
POSITIVITY HITS FIVE YEAR HIGH DESPITE CONCERNS OVER HIRING COSTS - Optimism among company chief financial officers in Ireland has hit a five-year high, a survey suggests. Spending is on the rise and companies believe the availability of credit from all sources is improving, according to the latest Deloitte CFO survey. But despite the positivity, the men and women who control the finances of some of Ireland's large private companies remain cautious about the overall state of play in the economy, says the Irish Independent. While they see unemployment falling and the recovery continuing, just over a half surveyed believe the Government should still plough ahead with plans for a €2 billion adjustment in October's Budget. The headline figure in the survey is that 62% of Irish CFOs feel more confident about the financial prospects for their company. This is the highest level of optimism since the survey began five years ago and is up from the 50% recorded in the first three months of the year. "The positive sentiment expressed by CFOs is in line with the majority of respondents, who rated the level of external financial and economic uncertainty facing their business as low or normal," said Shane Mohan, partner with Deloitte.
FIVE-STAR HOTEL NARROWS PRE-TAX LOSSES TO €2.66m - The five-star Westin Hotel on Dublin’s College Green narrowed its pre-tax losses last year by 17% to €2.66m. Newly-filed accounts for Westin Hotels Ireland Ltd also show a 10% increase in revenues from €12.62m to €13.84m for 2013, writes the Irish Examiner. Last month, it emerged that US billionaire, John Malone purchased the hotel for €65m, with it set to be operated by the Lalco Hotel group under a franchise agreement with Westin Hotels and Resorts. The deal is expected to be concluded before the end of this month. The 163 room hotel is run by US-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts and the accounts show that the hotel received an additional €3.7m from Starwood International Finance Europe Ltd during 2013, following the hotel receiving an additional €4m from the Starwood firm in 2012. According to the directors’ report accompanying the accounts: “While the company is still behind its peak performance, in 2012 the company witnessed an overall improvement in trading conditions with improved daily average rate, increased group business, sporting events and conferences.”
RECORD INCOME GAP FUELS US HOUSING WEAKNESS - The income gap between America’s richest and poorest metropolitan regions has reached its widest on record, shaping an uneven housing recovery that threatens to hold back the broader revival of the world’s largest economy. The gap has narrowed and widened in past cycles, but the rebound from the most recent financial crisis has seen the ratio hit its most unequal since data collection began 45 years ago, fuelling policy makers’ concerns. US Commerce and Labor Department data for the 100 largest metropolitan areas by population, analysed for the Financial Times by property website Trulia, found the income disparity between the 10th most expensive region and the 90th by home prices in 2013 hit its widest since records began in 1969. The research shows Boston - ranked at 10 - reporting a per-capita income 1.61 times that of Cincinnati ranked at 90. At its low point in 1976, the gap was 1.36 times, between San Francisco and El Paso. A patchy labour market recovery has meant significant variations in job and income growth between regions across the US, which in turn has intensified the divergences across the country’s housing markets. While some areas are experiencing bubble-like conditions, others are flailing. In Austin, Texas, a surge in technology jobs has driven demand. But in Akron, Ohio, which is struggling to boost employment through a new manufacturing base, house purchases have been more muted. In the government town of Sacramento, California, anxious homebuyers are waiting on the sidelines after being priced out by investors.