TALKS TO SOLVE BORD GAIS BOSS'S EXIT - The Irish Independent reports that official from the Department of Energy and representatives of the board of Bord Gáis will meet this week in a bid to resolve a dispute between itself and chief executive Gerry Walsh over the terms of his departure from the semi-state body.

Mr Walsh's retirement date is tomorrow and comes in the midst of a dispute over the financial terms of his departure.

The Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources would not comment on the dispute, the article says.

Recently, Bord na Móna managing director John Hourican, who is also due to stand down shortly, announced he was taking legal action against the company in a bid to secure a golden handshake that could be as high as €1.9m, or retain his employment.

Earlier, the board of Bord Gáis, the State utilities firm, said that all attempts to resolve the issue are being made.

The paper says that Mr Walsh yesterday sent an e-mail circular cancelling his going away parties that were due to be held last week (July 25 and 26) at the Clarion Hotel, Cork and Dublin respectively.

The Irish Times says that according to the most recent Bord Gáis annual report, Mr Walsh received a salary of €229,000 in the year ended March 2007. His total package, including contributions and bonuses, came to €365,000.

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TECH FIRMS GET BACKING FOR US TRIP - The Irish Times reports that Enterprise Ireland is backing a trip by a group of Irish high-tech start-ups to Silicon Valley that aims to take advantage of Aer Lingus's planned direct route between Dublin and San Francisco.

Dubbed "Paddy's Valley", the ad-hoc group of technology companies have joined forces to boost the profile of Irish tech start-ups in California, the paper says.

Enterprise Ireland has stepped in to provide facilities and additional contacts for the trip, scheduled to take place in December.

Benjamin Mosse, a market adviser with Enterprise Ireland's New York office, welcomed the grass-roots initiative and said it was critical for entrepreneurs to "think internationally" and develop links to the US at a very early stage.

The US is the largest single destination for Irish software exports, taking in exports worth almost €500 million last year, according to the trade body.

The organiser of the tour, Conor O'Neill, said Enterprise Ireland's support would open more doors for the companies, which he said were "tired of knocking on venture capitalists' doors in Dublin".

It is hoped the tour will mark the first of several trips to build up stronger links between Irish technology groups and the Silicon Valley investment community, using Aer Lingus's direct service to San Francisco, which will run four times a week from October.

The tour's co-organiser, James Corbett, who is adviser to Boston-based start-up Grazr.com, said that as well as showing US companies that there are investment opportunities in Ireland, the tour was also a way for the companies to show off intellectual property that US companies could license.

Other companies involved in the trade mission include Tourist Republic, which operates websites that combine travel, social networking and a trip planner application, and RelevantM, which claims to offer "an Irish solution to a Bebo problem" by offering patented tools that allow the users of social networking sites to maintain their privacy online.

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HASSLE OF HEATHROW TAKES TOLL - The Financial Times reports that the new City minister has warned that London's status as one of the world's leading financial centres risks being undermined by excessive delays at Heathrow and the airport's sprawling layout.

In her first interview in the role, Kitty Ussher told the Financial Times that the government shares business concerns about queues at passport control, the effect of security measures and the airport's set-up.

Calling herself an 'advocate' for business in government, she spoke of the unhappiness felt by executives at the so-called 'Heathrow hassle' and the miserable experiences they have suffered.

In frank criticism that reflects mounting government concern, she voiced fears that multinational companies could question the rationale for holding annual or other important meetings in London. 'I want multinational companies to feel really confident about housing their annual general meetings here,' she said.

'They often have it in a different financial centre every year, or board meetings, that kind of thing. I don't want their New York or Dubai executives saying 'Oh God, I don't want to go through Heathrow'. I don't want that to be an issue.'

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PIRATE DOWNLOADS AT ALL-TIME HIGH - The Guardian reports that illegal music downloading is at an all-time high and set to rise further, according to a report that urges the record industry to make legal buying easier and cheaper.

The paper says that although social networking sites are boosting interest in music that translates into sales, a growing band of consumers are unconcerned about being prosecuted for illegal downloads, according to Entertainment Media Research.

Its fourth annual Digital Music Survey, a poll of 1,700 people, suggests illegal music buying is widespread, with 43% claiming that they are illegally downloading tracks, rising from 36% last year and 40% in 2005.

This year only 33% cited the risk of being prosecuted as a deterrent against unauthorised downloading, compared with 42% in 2006, the article says.

The findings also show that nearly one in five respondents - 18% - claimed an intention to download more unauthorised tracks, up from 8% in 2006.

The report says price is the key factor for the slowdown in legal downloading after sharp increases in 2005 and 2006.

As the cost of CDs in shops has fallen the perceived cost advantage of digital downloads has been eroded.

The report suggests one way to tackle that may be for music companies to consider introducing differential pricing.

It said 84% of consumers agreed that older digital downloads should be cheaper and 48% claimed they would be prepared to pay more for newly released tracks.