EIB PRESIDENT CONFIDENT OF IRISH RETURN TO MARKETS - The President of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, is in Ireland to announce the funding of various projects. Already the EIB has announced €200m in low interest credit, through AIB, for Irish small and medium business. It is also looking at co-funding the LUAS cross-town link. Last year it funded schools, water and renewable energy projects, and small business.
EIB President Werner Hoyer says that the bank will be lending more to Ireland this year than last year, with the total reaching a record level of €600m. In previous years, the bank lent more to Ireland for the interconnector electricity grid projects in 2010, when lending levels hit over €1 billion.
Mr Hoyer says that in Ireland - like other areas in the European Union - access to finance for small and medium sized businesses is getting more and more difficult due to structural developments in the countries, as well as the general deleveraging of banks. ''There is a need to maintain access to finance for companies which are profitable, which can work and which will definitely survive but which have acute problems entering the markets,'' he states.
SME funding is a key part of the EIB's business and makes up to 25% of its business volumes, the bank's President says. Mr Hoyer says that the EIB is broadening its investment base and as well as the SME funding, the bank is interested in the Bioscience Centre in Trinity College, in Limerick urban development, the Luas cross-town link and a variety of other activities including the refurbishment of schools around the country. He points out that helping schools brings jobs to SMEs in the locality as well as bringing educational improvements.
Mr Hoyer says that funding decisions on such projects as renewable energy projects, water metering and ports can be delayed due for political reasons - which he says can cause some problems for the country itself. He says the EIB has to respect that political decisions have to come first and when the decisions are made, it will negotiate how to make funding available for these projects. Admitting that this lost time does cost money, the banker says that democracy can be a painful process at times. He says the bank's working model is to work through local banks in each country, as the EIB is quite a ''lean operation'' which enables it to keep lending costs down.
On the economy, the EIB President says that the painful process that Ireland has gone through has paid off and the country has lived up to its programme commitments. He says he is very optimistic that by the end of the year, the country will make a full return to the markets. He says that austerity does not kill growth and that reform processes are urgently needed in most countries in the European Union. But he adds that at the same time that economies need growth initiatives which promote innovation, education and employment.
MORNING BRIEFS - Lloyds Banking Group has reported a big rise in profits for the first three months of the year. The British bank reported a statutory pre-tax profit of £2.04 billion in the first quarter. This was up from £280m for the same time last year. Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said the bank had made "substantial progress".
*** Switzerland's biggest bank - UBS has reported a $1 billion net profit in the first three months of its financial year, helped by business at its investment bank and management for wealthy clients. The results are 4.5% lower than for the same period last year, but still show a massive turnaround in comparison to the $2 billion loss the bank posted at the end of last year, after a series of lawsuits, scandals and restructuring. UBS said it is cautious about the rest of the year, due mainly to Europe's continuing problems.
*** Discount retailers Aldi and Lidl now hold a 13.1% share of the Irish market, according to the latest statistics from Kantar Worldpanel Ireland. This is a record share for the discount sector with both chains posting significant sales growth in recent months. Aldi has a 6.4% market share, and it saw sales grow by 28.5% so far this year. Lidl, which has a 6.6% share of the market, grew sales by 7.3%. SuperValu, also growing, has a market share of 19.8% - unchanged from the same time last year. Superquinn's sales grew by slightly less than 1%, though its market share is down at 5.6%. Sales at Tesco fell by nearly 1%t, according to the figures. The British chain is still the biggest grocery retailer in the country, with 27.7% of the market. Dunnes Stores comes second, holding 22.5% of the market.
*** China has overtaken the US as the world's biggest market for personal computers. Research by the consultants IHS said PC shipments to the country rose to 69 million units in 2012. The US was the biggest market up until 2011, last year it had orders for 66 million units. Laptops are the fastest rising sector in developed markets and have overtaken PCs, but in China the sale of desktops and laptops is evenly split.