VARADKAR RULES OUT SALE OF STATE'S STAKE IN AER LINGUS - Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has all but ruled out any sale of the State’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus saying it is difficult to see the “right conditions” for such a sale occurring at any time in the near future. When he announced Government plans to sell a number of State assets, Mr Varadkar’s Cabinet colleague, Brendan Howlin, said the 25% holding in the airline would be put on the block, under the right circumstance. In an interview with The Irish Times today, Mr Varadkar said he did not favour selling the stake for the moment and that the Government was not pursuing it. “What we’ve said consistently is that we’ll sell the stake at the right time, at the right price and under the right conditions.” “And the more that I think about what that means, I find it very hard to see when the right time is, what the right price is and what the right conditions would be.” Mr Varadkar also said that it would be very unlikely any investor would come along at the right time and meet those conditions. The comments by the Minister on Aer Lingus come as the airline faces a period of potential industrial relations turmoil and further disagreements on the pension scheme operated for its staff and those employed by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). The outcome of a ballot for industrial action by cabin crew at Aer Lingus is expected to be made known today while separately unions seem set to look for the airline and the DAA to invest further funds in a bid to plug a deficit of about €780 million in the joint pension scheme.
PRE-TAX PROFITS AT DUNNES' UK ARM UP 29% AFTER COST-CUTTING - Cost-cutting at the UK arm of Dunnes Stores meant that profits jumped last year, despite falling sales. Pre-tax profits at the British division of the Irish-owned retail giant soared by 29% to £15.9m (€18.5m) in the year ending to February - even though sales fell by 5% to £157m, reports the Irish Independent. The newly filed accounts offer a rare insight into the finances of the family-owned business as Dunnes Stores has unlimited status in Ireland and is not required to file annual accounts to the Companies Office. The Newry-registered firm's revenues are generated by 34 stores operating in the UK and Northern Ireland - 23 in the North, six in England and five in Scotland. Most of its increase in profit last year can be attributed to cost-cutting; the firm's cost of sales decreased by 9.5% from £107.5m to £97.25m while operating expenses were slashed by about £2m to £45.6m. Staff costs of £18.89m were down by 6%, or more than £1m. The entire Dunnes Stores group employs about 15,000 people in Ireland and the UK.
90% OF WORKERS EXPECT PAY RISE - POLL - Increasing optimism about the health of the Irish economy has resulted in 90% of employees believing that they will get a pay rise next year, writes the Irish Times. A survey of more than 700 people by Berkley Recruitment found that 30% more respondents were expecting a pay rise in 2014 compared with results of the Global Sentiment Survey last year. The high level of confidence displayed by employees is on a par with findings by the recruitment firm in other countries. Managing director at Berkley Group Fergal Brosnan said that the indicator was a good sign that positivity was returning to the Irish market. “Global reports suggest the economy is getting back on track, and Ireland has certainly been one of the countries that has noted a more positive sentiment over recent months. “Employment and business opportunities in the country are certainly on the rise. “While there is still a way to go before we note similar levels to pre-recession, overall positivity is certainly returning to the Irish market, something we expect to continue across the globe as we move into 2014,” he said.
TWITTER POISED TO HIT ACQUISITION TRIAL - Twitter is set to embark on an acquisition spree after its imminent initial public offering, going on the hunt for companies to help bolster its monetisation efforts, says the Financial Times. The messaging platform, which is expected to list with a valuation of as much as $13.9 billion this week, said it planned “substantial investment” to expand research and development including buying other companies for their products, technologies and staff. Armed with the funds from the offering, a new $1 billion credit line and a top mergers and acquisitions banker who joined the company from Morgan Stanley, analysts expect it to snap up more companies in the mould of the mobile advertising exchange MoPub which it bought last month. Cynthia Gaylor, a banker who has worked on deals with Google, Amazon and Oracle, announced she planned to focus on M&A when she became Twitter’s head of corporate development in May. The company is now advertising for four new business development managers to focus on areas such as mobile and media.