EC HAS NOT FORMED A VIEW ON IRISH TAX SYSTEM - The Irish Times reports that the European Commission has “not yet formed a view” that Ireland is giving special tax treatment to certain companies operating here.

The report is based on comments made by European Commissioner for Competition Joaquín Almunia European Commission to Fianna Fáil.

Mr Almunia added that the commission had “not initiated a formal investigation” into these allegations, which emerged last year.

In a letter to Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman, Michael McGrath, dated February 3rd, Mr Almunia said: “Let me clarify that the Commission is at this stage only gathering information about certain administrative practices in the area of corporate taxation, amongst others in Ireland.”

He said the commission was obliged to “gather all necessary information to either rebut or confirm” the allegations that had been made against Ireland’s corporate tax regime.

Mr Almunia said it was the commission’s “duty” to investigate any allegation that a member state might be conferring an unfair advantage to certain companies in a way that could distort competition in the common market.


SURVIVAL SCHEME FOR SIAC COMPANIES APPROVED - A survival scheme for seven key companies in construction giant SIAC employing about 200 people has been approved by the High Court, reports The Irish Examiner.

The scheme, subject to some final modifications being approved later this week, will become effective from Monday next.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday gave the go-ahead for survival proposals which will see a €10.5m investment in the company, with about €5m going to secured banker creditors — Bank of Ireland, Bank of Scotland and KBC Bank, owed some €42m.

The companies have a total 1,255 creditors, including 876 Irish/UK creditors and 379 Polish creditors, and most of those will get between 5%-10% of what they are owed.

About €2m of the €10.5m is for working capital while the costs of the examinership will be between €400,000 to €500,000.


APPLE PUTS PRESSURE ON CONFLICT MINING - Apple is extending its supply chain clean up beyond Chinese factories and into African mines, using name-and-shame tactics to cut the amount of “conflict minerals” that end up in its iPhones and iPads, reports The Financial Times.

As it touts fresh improvements to working conditions in the factories that produce its devices, the world’s most valuable technology company is now combining its might in electronics-component purchasing and marketing to pressure smelters to make their sourcing more ethical.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice-president of operations, told the Financial Times that last month was the first time it was able to verify that none of the tantalum used in capacitors and resistors in its devices had come from mines in conflict regions.

It is now urging “conflict-free” audits for gold, tin and tungsten suppliers by publishing a list of all its suppliers’ smelters and their compliance with ethical sourcing guidelines every quarter.

“We think it has the chance to make a difference,” Mr Williams said. “The smelters are a choke point where all this flows through. If we can get as many smelters verified [as possible] through this pressure, then we have a real chance of influencing the various activities on the ground.”


TWITTER TESTING FACEBOOK-STYLE DESIGN - Twitter is testing a new design that makes users' profile pages more reminiscent of social networking rivals such as Facebook, reports The Irish Independent.

The changes are designed to get people to spend more time on the service.

The new Twitter design, which is showing up for a small set of users, includes a wide background photo across the top of the page and a smaller profile picture on the left-hand side, similar to member pages on Facebook's rival social network. Some postings are displayed more prominently and in bolder type.

The changes come in addition to an overall design refresh that occurred in January.