ECB SUPPORT IS 'CRUCIAL' TO PTSB PLAN - European Central Bank support is crucial to the viability of Permanent TSB’s restructuring plan that is with the European Commission, according to sources. However, it is believed the ECB is opposed to providing any sort of finance for legacy assets with a negative carry trade as it would create a precedent that would be used by other banks across the region, writes the Irish Examiner. The Department of Finance is responsible for proposing a restructuring plan for PTSB that will gain approval from the Directorate General of Competition at the European Commission. The 99.8% State-owned bank has been loss-making since the financial sector collapsed in 2008. The broad outline of the plan is to separate the PTSB into three divisions: a good bank; an asset management unit for the stressed assets; and a separate UK division. Most of the stressed assets that will be transferred into the asset management unit will come from the bank’s €15 billion tracker mortgage book. The main problem for PTSB is that its cost of funding is greater than the returns on these mortgages. The biggest challenge for the restructuring plan is to put in place a funding mechanism for the asset management unit. One source said the ECB would be the most appropriate body to provide funding for the asset management unit because it could provide liquidity at low enough rates to ensure that the division isn’t loss making.
KENNEDY WILSON BELIEVES RETAIL PROPERTY MARKET AT BOTTOM - Kennedy Wilson, the US real estate giant that has invested heavily in Ireland since the crash, has called the bottom of the market here for retail property. Peter Collins, who runs Kennedy Wilson Europe from its Dublin office, said retail would be “the big story” of 2014, writes the Irish Times. He said the firm, which has bought 21 properties in Dublin, mainly comprising office and apartment blocks and commercial assets such as the Shelbourne Hotel, would “focus much more” on retail here this year. It entered the retail sector here last year when it acquired control of Stillorgan shopping centre via its €306 million purchase from NAMA of the Opera portfolio of Treasury Holdings’ property loans. “Retail is a tough place to be. But we think the leading indicators look good,” said Mr Collins. He added that Kennedy Wilson, which has $13.7 billion of assets under management globally, would focus on trying to acquire shopping centres anchored by grocery tenants. Mr Collins, who was speaking at a property seminar at the Marker Hotel in Dublin organised by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, also said Kennedy Wilson would invest further in apartment blocks for the rental market.
GREENCORE TO EXPAND IN US AS FLUSH CUSTOMERS BUY MORE SANDWICHES - Greencore says it plans to expand its US operations after the company's American unit recorded 26.2% growth in sales. The food group wants to build new premises or make acquisitions there to bolster its multi-million-dollar deals with Starbucks and convenience store 7-Eleven, says the Irish Independent. The company is benefiting from rising consumer confidence in the UK, which is encouraging customers to splash out on take-away breakfasts and lunches. "That's where the market is going well and we are growing more strongly than the market and that's giving us the revenue momentum," chief executive Patrick Coveney said. Mr Coveney, who travels to Seattle next week to hold talks with the coffee shop chain, said his immediate plans were to grow business and distribution opportunities with both firms. Greencore, the world's largest sandwich maker, produces 450 million ready-to-go foods every year. Sales hit £320.5m (€388m) in the final quarter of last year with US revenues boosted by the Starbucks deal last year.
WINKLEVOSSES WANT SHERIFF TO POLICE VIRTUAL CURRENCY "WILD WEST" - The Winklevoss twins have called for a sheriff to police the “wild, wild west” of virtual currencies after the founder of a company they backed was charged with money laundering offences. Tyler Winklevoss called the arrest of Charlie Shrem a “speed bump” in the development of Bitcoin, while his brother Cameron said their investment had been made at a time when anti-money laundering rules had not been clear for virtual currency companies. “No one would deny it was the wild, wild west,” Cameron said. “The wild west attracts cowboys, and I don’t think anybody here would deny a sheriff would be a good thing.” The twins were speaking at a hearing held by the New York department for financial services, which is considering issuing “bitlicences” to regulate companies that trade virtual currencies, says the Financial Times. The pair are still more than $70m up on their investment in Bitcoin, but their reputations and fortunes are tied ever more closely to its fate. They have not sold any of their holdings of the currency itself and are trying to launch an exchange-traded fund that will track the Bitcoin price, into which they might sell some of their holdings over time. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is reviewing their application, has shown a cautious approach to ETF innovation in the past.