IRISH GAS SUPPLY NOT AT RISK FROM UKRAINE CRISIS, SAYS BORD GÁIS - Bord Gáis has played down the potential effect that the Ukraine crisis could have on Ireland’s winter gas supplies, after Russia last week warned there is a “high risk” of disruption to the supply of its gas to Europe delivered via the war-torn country. Alexander Novak, the Russian energy minister, made the comments against the backdrop of a sharp ratcheting up of tensions between his administration and the European Union, as well as separate tensions between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices. Mr Novak said gas supplies in Ukraine were running critically low and claimed that if it experiences a cold winter, Ukraine could siphon off gas intended for Europe that flows through pipelines on its territory. About 15% of Europe’s gas is delivered via this route. "The situation is extremely critical as the heating season approaches," Mr Novak said. "There is a high risk that [gas intended] for Europe will be illegally taken by Ukraine for its own use." Ukraine said his comments are “groundless” and meant to discredit the country, which as well as being on the brink of all-out war with its larger neighbour, is involved in a $5 billion (€3.8 billion) pricing dispute with it over allegations by Russia that Ukraine owes money to Russia’s Gazprom. John Heffernan, a senior gas and power trader for Bord Gáis, said that if all-out war breaks out between Ukraine and Russia, it would likely mean an increase in wholesale gas prices. But he said that most of the gas that is imported into Ireland does not originate in Russia. 

***

DUBLIN NEEDS TO HAVE UP TO 30 NEW HOTELS, TOURISM CHIEF WARNS - Dublin needs to build as many as 30 additional hotels between now and 2020 to handle the expected growth in tourism and business travel, according to the head of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC). The capital needs as many as 5,000 additional bedrooms - equal to between 20 and 30 large new hotels, according to Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the ITIC, the representative body for the tourism industry. The need for extra rooms will surprise many. Nationally, the hotel sector has suffered from over supply because of so called zombie hotels since the crash, after hundreds of often tax break driven properties were built across the country in the boom. Eamonn McKeon said some of those hotels are in places visitors don't want to be. "Tourists want to be in the city centre. The scarcity is in the central Dublin 1, 2 and 4 (postcode) areas. People who have travelled want to be able to walk," Eamonn McKeon told the Irish Independent. Hotel operators will be fearful of moves to build new rooms because the sector is only just beginning to recover from the crash, Mr McKeon admitted. Figures released last week showed hotels in Dublin are now as busy as in the boom, but charging 22% less. Outside the capital the sector is struggling to attract visitor numbers.

***
983 START-UPS IN AUGUST AS GROWTH CONTINUES IN SECTORS HIT BY RECESSION - Thirty-eight start-ups were set up every day last month as the total number of companies rose by more than 8% compared to the same period last year. In total, 983 companies were formed in August, with industries particularly hard hit by the recession contributing significantly to this figure, says the Irish Examiner. The number of construction start-ups grew 30% on the same period last year, while more finance companies were also established with 53 companies started compared to 31 in August 2013, according to figures released by credit and business risk analyst Vision-net.ie. Vision-net.ie managing director Christine Cullen said the figures were good news for industries hit particularly hard by the recession. "The sectors which experienced a marked decline in business during the recession, particularly construction, real estate and manufacturing are beginning to show signs of recovery," said Ms Cullen. A pick-up in these key sectors is good news and critical to Ireland’s continued journey back to growth. "The increase in finance company start-ups is also encouraging and may be indicative of greater liquidity in our lending market, particularly in the mortgage market."

***

CITI PAYS ALLOWANCES TO AVOID BONUS CAP - Citigroup has become the latest bank to boost fixed pay for hundreds of its high earners in Europe as a way of compensating for rules introduced this year that limit bonuses to up to twice the level of base salaries, writes the Financial Times. The US bank has sent out letters in recent weeks to senior staff telling them they will receive fixed monthly payments in addition to their salaries, several people close to the situation said. More than 600 of Citi’s bankers in Europe are affected by the bonus cap and will therefore be paid such allowances, these people added. About half of them have received similar allowances in the past after Citi, which declined to comment, introduced them a few years ago to mitigate the impact of regulatory demands for higher bonus deferrals for key staff. The number of staff subjected to the European pay rules including the bonus cap has more than doubled this year after the continent’s banking regulator broadened the definition for “material risk takers”. EU rules force banks to restrict bonuses to 100 per cent of salary, or twice that level with explicit shareholder approval.