KBC BANK IRELAND TO SET UP SHOP ON THE IRISH MAIN STREET - NIB was in the headlines a few weeks ago after it decided to shut its branches here and concentrate on online banking. But KBC Bank Ireland is going in the other direction - and is opening its first retail bank on Dublin's Baggot Street today. The branches will offer the full range of retail banking services such as mortgages, deposits, insurance and life insurance among other products.

John Reynolds, chief executive of KBC Bank Ireland, says the company hopes to follow up today's opening with new branches in Cork, Limerick, Galway and other major urban centres. "Our driving force is to follow customer demand," John Reynolds says. " We've the scope to do very well. The fact that other banks are restructuring means the customers have to follow their restructuring needs. We can follow customer demands. If we remain nimble and responsive, we believe there's a great opportunity for us." The KBC Bank Ireland boss says that 2012 was a tough year in terms of trading, as the bank absorbed the credit costs in the banking environment. "We expect things to moderate in 2013 and we hope to return to substantial profitability in 2014 and 2015," he adds. KBC Bank Ireland was downgraded to a negative outlook by ratings agency, Standard and Poor's last year. It had impairment costs of €510m in 2011 and €525m in 2010. KBC is currently looking to fill 70 positions in the bank. Mr Reynolds says the bank's workforce has increased from 500 in 2008 to 700 today.


MORNING BRIEFS - 100 jobs are to be created in Dublin with the establishment of an engineering and security operations centre by IT security solutions company, Mandiant. The jobs are in software engineering and security operations as well as product development and a number of administrative roles.

*** ISME - the group that represents small and medium sized business - says the rate of refusal of credit by the banks has increased by four points to 53% since September. This despite the fact that demand for credit remains steady at almost 40%.

*** New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently considering purchasing the Financial Times Group, according to the New York Times. The group includes the FT newspaper and the Economist magazine. Analysts value the group at around $1.2 billion and the group had revenues of nearly $8 billion last year.

*** There was a slight rise in wholesale energy prices in November, according to the latest Bord Gais Energy Index out this morning. The 2% increase was largely down to higher Brent crude prices. Tension in the Middle East and the North African region led to a loss in production of 1.7 million barrels of oil per day on average.

*** Construction activity fell sharply again last month, according to the Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers index which measures activity in that sector. The latest fall has been attributed to lower new orders. Job losses also intensified in the month in line with reduced workloads.