IRISH MARKET TOUGH BUT STEADIER FOR INM - Independent News & Media has reported operating profits for 2011 of €75.5m, down almost 9%, following two profit warnings last year.

Revenue fell by nearly 11% to €558m as the group says very challenging trading conditions continued to prevail in Ireland.

Revenues in South Africa were also lower than in 2010 when the World Cup was held there.

INM's chief operating officer Vincent Crowley said advertising was particularly tough in Ireland, reflecting the economic situation, with recruitment and property advertising down. But Mr Crowley said the situation in Ireland was much steadier now, and some advertising categories were performing a little better.

He would not comment on reports in the Financial Times this morning that Denis O'Brien, INM's biggest shareholder with a 22% stake, and Dermot Desmond, a 5.75% shareholder, are both seeking the removal of chief executive Gavin O'Reilly at the AGM in June.

Mr Crowley said INM had reduced its debt last year and was focused on reducing costs.

He said conditions in South Africa were "soft", but not as tough as in Ireland.

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MEP URGES CARE ON BANKING REGULATIONS - "Positioning for growth" is the theme of a banking conference taking place in Dublin today for the Federation of International Banks in Ireland.

It comes as the sector faces, it says, significant challenges in the form of new regulation.

Addressing the Federation of International Banks is Sharon Bowles, an MEP who chairs its powerful Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

Ms Bowles said the parliament listened to citizens' concerns on banks, adding that it was important to keep growth in mind when considering regulations.

She said the parliament had been tough on issues such as bankers' pay, but added that the banks were not always wrong in their arguments about the effects of new regulations.

The MEP said tighter rules usually led to higher costs for businesses, and Europe had to be careful not to make rules protectionary or isolationist.

She said reform of credit rating agencies was difficult, as there had to be something to replace the current system. She said more competition and transparency were the big issues in this area.