INCREASED BANK CHARGES EXPECTED AS ULSTER BANK DECLARES FEES 'TOO LOW' - Bank customers may be subject to another increase in fees as Ulster Bank has declared that service charges in Ireland are too low, writes the Irish Independent. Chief executive Jim Brown made the comments as he predicted that customer accounts' charges would see an "upward movement". Mr Brown said that he expected Ulster Bank to achieve an income of 33% from these service fees, a rise from a current return of 25%. If Ulster Bank decide to increase their charges for customers, the few large banks left in the Irish banking market are likely to follow suit. Account holders are already coping with a series of charges from each of the country’s banks. AIB offers an exemption from fees if €2,500 is kept in the account at all times, but otherwise charges €4 every three months in addition to a service fee of 39 cent per transaction. Bank of Ireland, meanwhile, expects their customers to maintain a higher balance of €3,000 in order to avoid transaction services - which are charged at 40 cent each. However, fee-free banking is on offer at Permanent TSB if a customer lodges €1,500 to their current account every month.
DEVELOPER FACES ROUND FOUR OF QUESTIONS IN US - Sean Dunne is alone among the one-time super-wealthy Irish property developers in seeing his finances investigated by officers of two bankruptcy courts, in Ireland and the United States. After voluntarily filing for bankruptcy in Connecticut last year, Dunne told The Irish Times he could be out of bankruptcy within six months and free to develop property again in his own name. Almost a year on, the Co Carlow developer is still being questioned on his finances by his creditors, Ulster Bank and the National Asset Management Agency, as well as by the US bankruptcy trustee, Connecticut lawyer Richard Coan, who is liquidating the remnants of his €1 billion property empire. Today, Dunne (59) faces a fourth round of questions from the trustee and creditors at a resumed “341” meeting. It has been a stop-start investigation so far. He refused to answer questions at a second meeting in July after Nama filed a fresh legal challenge against him in the US bankruptcy court. The fact that a third creditors’ meeting in New Haven, Connecticut, in December, lasting eight hours over two days, did not provide enough time shows both the complexity of this case and the determination of Ulster Bank, the financier of his doomed Ballsbridge redevelopment, and Nama, the State loans agency, to pursue asset transfers to his wife which they believe they are entitled to unwind.
CROKE PARK FIRMS UP PROFITS TO €8m - The firm that operates Croke Park last year marginally increased its operating profits to €8.057m in spite of the absence of concerts there in 2013, writes the Irish Examiner. In another stellar year for the firm that operates the 82,000-seater stadium, Croke Park hotel and other properties, stadium director and GAA commercial director, Peter McKenna, said that “in a year without the cream that concerts deliver, the Croke Park team delivered an exceptional performance”. In contrast to last year, 2014 will provide an additional estimated €7m in rental income arising from the eight concerts from Garth Brooks and One Direction in May and July. The stadium will also generate income from the American football game. The figures for Páirc an Chrócaigh Teoranta and subsidiaries in the 10 months to the end of October last show that the lack of rental income from concerts contributed to revenues decreasing by 13% from €33.1m to €28.69m. Last year Croke Park staged 64 games over 30 match days and one International Rules fixture with match day attendances at 1.142 million.
MINECRAFT FILM UNDER CONSTRUCTION AT WARNER BROS - Warner Brothers is swapping Lego bricks for pixelated blocks to bring popular virtual-world game Minecraft to the big screen, says the Financial Times. The Hollywood studio is building on its success with The Lego Movie , which has become one of 2014’s biggest hits, taking in $280.5m globally over the past three weeks. A Lego sequel is planned for 2017, making it Warners’ biggest family-friendly franchise since the blockbuster Harry Potter series ended in 2011. Sometimes seen as Lego’s digital heir, Minecraft has become one of the world’s most popular online games since it launched in 2011. More than 100 million people have created their own structures and landscapes with its digital blocks, to protect themselves from the evil “creepers” that come out at night. Warners has acquired the rights to Minecraft from its Swedish developer Mojang and is working with the producer of The Lego Movie , Roy Lee, on the project. Unlike the animated Lego Movie, Minecraft will be a live-action film, allowing faster production. That means it could hit cinemas ahead of rival Sony Pictures’ animated adaptation of Angry Birds, another mobile game turned merchandising machine, which is slated for release in 2016.