STUDY BLAMES PRICES ON PUBLICANS - The Irish Independent says the Competition Authority has found that publicans are largely responsible for pushing up the price of drink in Ireland.

In what the paper calls a significant study, the authority recommends the introduction of cafe bar licences.

The study, which calls for root-and-branch reform of the Irish licensing laws, says that the existing system is hurting the economy. It leads to higher drinks prices, reduces publicans' incentive to innovate and, if anything, is aggravating the problem of alcohol abuse.


GARAGE GROUP TO TAKE ON OIL GIANTS? - The Irish Times says a former director of First Active has set up a new national brand and buying group aimed at garage owners interested in breaking away from the major oil distributors.

The paper says Gerry Murphy, who owns a garage in Co Cork, has mailed the 1,500 garage owners around the country with plans to develop a national petrol and diesel retailing brand. Details of the new company are expected to be released this week and a significant advertising campaign will follow.

A company called Great Gas Petroleum (Ireland) Ltd has been set up for the purpose. Mr Murphy has said the company will attempt 'to take on the large oil distributors by founding a national brand and creating a new buying group'.

According to the Irish Times, the founders of the company believe garage owners could do better without being tied to a large oil distributors.


OPEC CUTS DISCOUNTS ON OIL - The Financial Times reports that oil cartel OPEC, has raised the price of its own oil to the highest level in a year, while publicly promising to tackle the high cost of oil at this week's meeting in Vienna.

Emboldened, the FT says, by strong demand and a high oil price that has yet to have a significant impact on global economic growth, several of OPEC's biggest Middle Eastern producers last week further increased the prices they charge US and European traders and refiners for their oil.

The paper says the decision to increase the costs of actual crude oil from the Middle East - led by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer - has gone largely undetected because New York and London oil futures prices, the world's benchmarks, have remained almost the same. What has changed, the FT says, is the level of discount to international futures benchmark prices at which the Middle East countries sell their crude to the US and Europe.


'BRIC' MARKETS THE FUTURE FOR BEER - The Times quotes a report which predicts that shares of brewing companies with big and expanding businesses in emerging markets will perform better than those whose main markets remain in the developed world.

Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, says the shares of three global brewing groups - InBev, SABMiller and Molson Coors - will outperform brewers whose main businesses are in developed countries.

The research says beer drinking is in decline in developed countries, where populations are ageing. Drinkers tend to switch to wine and spirits as they get older. The decline in the appetite for beer in the developed world contrasts with emerging economies, where spending power and populations are rising.

According to Goldman's analysts, the 'Bric' economies - Brazil, Russia, India and China - will account for about 40% of global growth in purchasing power this year.