UNION SET TO LODGE PAY CLAIM AT PENNEYS – The Irish Independent reports that Mandate Trade Union is set to lodge a claim for a pay rise for 4,000 Penneys workers in the wake of a wage increase at Tesco.

It is understood that an existing agreement at the cut-price clothing chain is set to expire in June, prompting officials to begin talks on a new deal.

Mandate, which represents retail and bar staff, is likely to seek a wage increase for staff lasting at least a year as soon as the current deal ends.

A 2% wage increase accepted by staff at Tesco last week is expected to spark a wave of increases at other big chains.

The latest big pay claim at Penneys comes as senior union leaders have begun a major drive for wage increases. At the weekend, the leader of the trade union movement, David Begg, said Ireland needs a pay rise across all sectors.

Mandate said it had won €20m in pay rises for 40,000 members over the last two years.


DENIS DESMOND GETS DIVIDENT FROM BRITISH VENUE – Concert promoter Denis Desmond has added to his fortune by receiving a sizeable chunk of a €21m dividend from the British music venue business he co-owns, reports The Irish Examiner.

New accounts show that Academy Music Group Ltd last year paid a dividend of £17.2m (€20.9m) to its shareholders.

Mr Desmond — through his joint venture with Live Nation, the LN Gaiety Holdings Ltd entity — owns 26% of Academy Music and would have received over €5.4m from the dividend payout.

When asked to comment on the 2013 dividend windfall yesterday, Mr Desmond said: “We got a few bob last year. It makes up for the other ones. We did well — it was a good year.”

The dividend Mr Desmond received is in addition to the £9.6m he shared in dividend payouts from his other UK enterprise, Festival Republic, in 2012 and 2011.

The accounts for Academy Music Group show it sustained a slight decline in pre-tax profits last year from £4.46m to £4.3m.

Revenues at the group dipped by 1%, from £32.7m to £32.3m, in the 12 months to December 31, 2013.


NAAS HOTELS SEEK COURT PROTECTION – The Irish Times reports that two hotels in Naas, employing more than 260 people, received emergency High Court protection from their creditors yesterday evening, following an application from their owners who feared the National Assets Management Agency was about to appoint receivers.

Craigfort Taverns, which trades as the four-star Killashee House Hotel in the town, and Marchford, which trades as Lawlor’s Hotel on Poplar Square, now has until a 7 May hearing to prepare an application for the appointment of an interim examiner.

A hearing to confirm the appointment is scheduled for 14 May. It is understood that the businesses are lining up Kieran Wallace of KPMG to act as examiner.

Both hotels are owned by Faxhill Homes, which is controlled by the Kildare builder Jack Tierney. He figured prominently in the McCracken tribunal inquiry into the affairs of former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry and former supermarket chief Ben Dunne, after it emerged Faxhill had done building work on the homes of both men using incorrect invoices.

Mr Tierney is a director of both hotels, alongside his business partner Denis McCoy. It is understood the directors, whose loans are in Nama, became concerned the agency would move to take control of the hotels.


CONSORTIUM AIMS TO REVIVE BITCOIN EXCHANGE - A group of Bitcoin entrepreneurs hoping to revive the bankrupt exchange Mt Gox has won backing for its controversial plan from a number of its creditors in the US, Canada and Europe, according to The Financial Times.

The consortium, called Sunlot, is hoping that the additional support will raise the pressure on the Japanese bankruptcy authorities to halt the liquidation and transfer Mt Gox’s assets to new owners.

The plan has split the Bitcoin community, which is reeling from the collapse of the first and most prominent exchange for the virtual currency. 

Mt Gox filed for bankruptcy protection in February and said that 850,000 Bitcoins were unaccounted for. It later revised the number to 650,000 after finding 200,000 Bitcoins in an old digital file.

A Japanese court appointed a liquidator this month, and customers have been warned that they may get back few or none of the Bitcoins that they entrusted to the exchange.

By offering to distribute the 200,000 rediscovered Bitcoins to Mt Gox customers and giving them a 16.5% interest in a revived exchange, Sunlot said it would offer a better deal for creditors than liquidation.