CARD SURCHARGE CURBS ON HOLD - The Irish Times reports that the Government is to row back on an earlier decision to outlaw surcharges on credit card payments.

The paper says the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin now plans to order an assessment of the impact of the surcharge ban before deciding whether to go ahead with the measure, even though it has been approved by the Oireachtas.

The Consumer Protection Bill, which prohibits traders from imposing charges relating to the payment method used by customers, was signed into law by President Mary McAleese last weekend. Mr Martin is due to sign the commencement orders for the legislation next week.

But the paper understands that the Minister has decided not to proceed at this stage with commencement orders for the parts of the Bill relating to surcharges, following lobbying by the travel and telecoms, whose members often charge consumers extra for paying by credit card or not paying by direct debit.


FARMERS GO FOR SLICE OF ONE51 - The Irish Independent reports that Farmer Business Developments is in advanced talks to invest €100m in One51 Capital, the recently-incorporated investment vehicle through which Philip Lynch's One51 has built up a 11.25% stake in Irish Continental Group.

The farmers investment vehicle, which owns 24.8% of Dublin-listed insurer FBD Holdings, is pushing for a 20% stake in One51 Capital.

But the Indo quotes sources as saying that Lynch is insisting that the company is worth over €500m, which would give the new investor a maximum of only 20% for the capital it plans to stump up.


GE HAT IN UK NUCLEAR RING - The Daily Telegraph says General Electric has fired the starting gun in the race to build a fleet of new nuclear power stations by writing to the British government to say it will compete for a slice of the multi-billion-pound work.

The paper says the American group's move surprised some nuclear experts because it came ahead of an Energy White Paper, which is expected in the week starting May 21.

The British government will give guidelines in the White Paper on how it wants companies to bid for the first British nuclear building programme in a generation and several players are waiting until they see the document before putting their hats into the ring.


US UNHAPPY WITH UK PROBE BLOCK - The Financial Times reports that the US issued a formal diplomatic protest to the British government over its decision to drop a fraud investigation into alleged bribery of Saudi officials by arms manufacturer BAE Systems.

The FT says the verbal protest was delivered in January by a US embassy official in London to the UK Foreign Office within days of the contentious decision being taken in December.

Several governments, including the US, had raised the issue at a meeting of the anti-bribery working group of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Diplomatic insiders told the FT Washington said the British decision put the Blair government in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the OECD anti-corruption convention that requires member states to have a 'level playing field' in which to conduct commercial relations.