DIGITAL ECONOMY TO 'CREATE 18,000 JOBS’ - The digital economy has the potential to create 18,000 jobs over the next three years and the internet sector has the potential to double its contribution from 3% to 6% of GDP over the same period, according to a report. The UPC report on Ireland’s digital future, which was conducted by Amárach Research, found that revenues from the internet economy could double to €11.3 billion by 2016 if current trends continue. “This will be underpinned by 2.6 million Irish online shoppers spending €5.7 billion (7% of all consumer spending) in 2016, compared to €3.7 billion in 2012.” Speaking at a breakfast briefing in Dublin yesterday to launch the report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said creating an Europe-wide single market for the digital economy was one of the top priorities for Ireland’s EU presidency. “In the near future, 90% of global trade will be done outside the EU. We must be ready for these digital markets and online trading will be crucial.” Mr Kenny said Ireland’s national digital strategy had made a lot of progress in a short time. The focus of this strategy was digital adoption to ensure that every citizen and small-to-medium sized business in the country embraced the online space.
EXXON MAY BEGIN DRILLING OFF IRISH COAST IN APRIL - Oil giant Exxon is preparing to begin drilling off the Irish coast within weeks, an exercise that could cost it and its partners €200 million writes the Irish Times. Exxon has a 27.5% interest in the Dunquin prospect in the southern part of the Porcupine Basin, more than 130km from the southwest coast, and has plans to begin exploratory drilling there shortly. According to estimates, the area could hold four billion barrels of oil and a similarly large quantity of gas. However, that has not been proven and Exxon’s drilling is geared at establishing what hydrocarbons the area might hold. Industry sources speculated yesterday that it could begin drilling as early as April as the rig that it has hired for the purpose - the Eirik Raude - has become available ahead of schedule. In addition, the multinational has hired four craft, known as platform supply vessels, to service the rig from French group Bourbon. According to some reports, the contract with Bourbon begins on March 15th and will run for 120 days, with an option of extending it by a further two months. Those dates would not necessarily coincide with the beginning and end of Exxon’s proposed drilling operations.
ECB LARGEST HOLDER OF IRISH DEBT, EDGING OUT INVESTOR HASENSTAB - The European Central Bank (ECB) has revealed for the first time that it holds €14.2 billion of Irish government bonds, making it the biggest holder of Irish debt in the world. The ECB now owns considerably more Irish debt than the €8.5 billion of bonds controlled by US investor Michael Hasenstab's Franklin Templeton fund, says the Irish Independent. However, the bonds held by the ECB are valued at €13.6 billion - less than the so-called 'face value' of the assets. The ECB also revealed that it holds more than €200 billion of IOUs issued by euro-area governments, including Ireland. It bought the IOUs under a secretive purchasing scheme aimed at stabilising the markets by buying bonds at times when normal investors were afraid to invest. It helped keep Italy and Spain out of bailouts, but not Ireland.
BRUSSELS TURNS UN PRSSURE OVER LIBOR - Banks and broker-dealers ensnared in the Libor-rigging scandal are facing fresh pressure to settle with Europe’s top competition authority as it expands the scope of its probes, reports the Financial Times. The European Commission’s 18-month antitrust investigation, previously known to include yen and euro interbank rates, has been extended to include Swiss franc-denominated swaps and poses a significant regulatory threat to the financial institutions under scrutiny, according to people familiar with the probe. The commission can impose a maximum penalty equivalent to 10% of a company’s global turnover for each cartel it is found to be involved with. A bank implicated in all three rate-fixing cases could, for example, face fines of up to 30% of total revenues. In a speech on Friday in Paris, the EU’s competition commissioner will stress his determination to pursue the cases and ensure competition enforcement complements actions of global authorities against misconduct and corruption. Joaquín Almunia’s speech is intended as a warning to financial institutions that are holding out against antitrust authorities. According to people involved in the probe, Brussels is informally exploring the potential for settlements, but some companies are unwilling to open discussions over what they consider to be unfounded allegations of wrongdoing.