BORD GÁIS WORKERS SET TO SHARE €34m BONANZA - Bord Gáis workers are set to share a tax-free €34m bonanza as a result of a share giveaway that values the company at €1 billion, writes the Irish Examiner. Workers at the state company are this week being given ballot papers following a briefing on a proposal for a 3% shareholding that would see each of its 900 employees receive shares valued at up to €38,000. If the proposed Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) is accepted by workers, it will be subject to ministerial and Revenue Commissioner approval. The proposal for a the establishment of an ESOP follows almost three years of talks between Bord Gáis, unions and company shareholders (the Department of Communications, energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Finance). However, the push for an ESOP has dragged on since the late 1990s, with the three unions involved - the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) and Unite - lobbying for the arrangement at Bord Gáis. The ESOP is designed to allow employees of the company build up a shareholding that will be managed by a company set up for the purpose and will likely be known as the Bord Gáis ESOP Trustee Limited.

RACING TYCOONS TO BENEFIT FROM £4bn PUT GROUP MERGER - Irish racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier will be among the beneficiaries of the long-anticipated acquisition of the UK pub group Mitchells & Butler by competitor Punch Taverns in a deal that would value the combined group at as much as £4 billionn (€5.33billion), reports the Irish Independent. Late last year Punch Taverns flatly denied that it was in any negotiations with Mitchells & Butler or its shareholders regarding a merger or takeover, but speculation persisted in the market that the two chains would link up. Mr McManus and Mr Magnier own a 4% stake in Mitchells & Butler, which the two racing tycoons had amassed by last year. The shareholding is currently worth about £77m, but has dropped in value since they acquired it. Mitchells & Butler's shareprice has almost halved in the past year, and fallen over 20% since October. Mitchells & Butler yesterday confirmed the approach, but said it will also continue to pursue discussions with other interested parties. Private equity firms TPG, CVC Capital Partners and Cinven are understood to have separately expressed interest.

BENNETT CONSTRUCTION MAKES PRE-TAX PROFIT OF €4.5m - Bennett Construction, part of the Mullingar-based group owned by Christopher and John Bennett, made a pretax profit of €4.5 million on a turnover of €180 million in the year to end March 2007, according to accounts just filed says the Irish Times. The group, which is involved in a range of significant construction projects, built Commerzbank House in Dublin's IFSC, Microsoft's headquarters in Sandyford, the Helix performing arts centre at Dublin City University, and the Civic Offices at Ballymun, among many other buildings. It is headed by an unlimited holding company, Hume Estate Company, and does not produce consolidated accounts. The company paid corporation tax of only €2,642 because of relief arising from losses incurred by other group com-panies, according to the accounts. The turnover figure represented a 35% increase on the previous year's €133 million. Pretax profits the previous year were €2 million. At the end of the latest financial year the company had €12.6 million in accumulated profits. However, it owed €44.3 million to group companies at year's end, down from €49 million at March 2006. During 2007 it employed 194 people involved in direct labour and 24 administrative staff, at a cost of €12 million. The directors' emoluments totalled €5.8 million, down from €8.5 million the previous year when €4.5 million was contributed towards their pensions. There were seven directors on the board at year's end.

AMERICAN REGULATOR INVESTIGATES SHARE SALE BY SOCGEN DIRECTOR - American regulators have begun inquiries into Société Générale, the French bank caught up in an alleged €4.9 billion (£3.7bn) rogue trading scandal, and a director who sold shares days before the losses were revealed, writes the London Independent. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial regulator, is looking into share sales by Mr Robert Day, a non-executive director of SocGen who is based in the US. A spokesman for Mr Day said he had not received formal notice from the SEC. 'All required government disclosures were made. No inside information was used in any way with respect to these sales. Mr Day has pledged his co-operation into any inquiries of this matter,' he added. Mr Day is already the subject of a lawsuit in France. Frederik-Karel Canoy, a French lawyer, filed a suit against the bank and Mr Day on behalf of 100 minority shareholders shortly after the scandal emerged. The non-executive director and his family's trusts and charitable foundations sold €45m (£35m) worth of shares on 18 January, although the bank said he had no knowledge of the losses until two days later.