€18.9 billion was spent on mergers and acquisitions in Ireland last year, down on figures from last year, according to law firm William Fry. Almost all of the activity saw foreign companies buying Irish entities and most of the money last year was spent in the pharmaceutical industry.

Bryan Bourke, head of corporate mergers and acquisitions at William Fry, says that while the figures for 2013 are down in value, the volumes are twice the level of activity seen in 2010. Mr Bourke says the fact that foreign buyers are so active in the market is a positive sign as it shows that international investors are preparing to invest in Ireland again after our recent economic troubles. He says that while investors are seeing good value for money here, valuations are rising. 

Today's report highlights the trend of inverse-takeovers, where a foreign company moves its headquarters to Ireland after buying a local player. Mr Bourke says that while the country's Corporation tax rate of 12.5% makes Ireland a very attractive place in which to do business, there are other strong strategic reasons for doing deals here. 2014 has started strongly on the M&A front, Mr Bourke says, with 14 deals announced already including the Fyffes-Chiquitta deal and the sale of Bord Gáis Energy to Centrica - announced earlier this week. He predicts that most of the activity will again be driven by foreign investors this year. 

MORNING BRIEFS  - Christoph Mueller, the Aer Lingus chief executive, saw his total pay rise to more than €1.5m last year, according to airline's annual report. Mr Mueller earned a total of €1.521m last year, up from €1.293m in 2012. The total included an annual bonus of €420,000, a special 2013 bonus of €400,000 and pension contributions of €175,000.

*** A Mayo-based cloud service provider is set to announce the creation of 19 new jobs later today. CloudStrong, which manages servers and software on behalf of client companies, will fill the high-tech roles over the next two years. The new jobs come as the Castlebar company eyes expansion in the British market - as well as growth in other European locations.

*** Ryanair plans to raise between €500m and €1 billion when it holds its first ever bond auction later this year. Speaking to the Irish Independent,  the airline's chief executive Michael O'Leary said the airline planned to use the money to help fund its purchase of 175 Boeing aircraft - the first of which are due to be delivered in September.
Ryanair recently received a triple B plus rating from Standard & Poor's but needs a rating from another of the main agencies before it can enter the markets. Mr O'Leary said the airline did have a number of options for paying for the Boeing jets - including using some of its cash reserves - however raising debt through the bond markets would probably be one of the cheaper options.