BORD NA gCON FACES ‘SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES’ FINANCIALLY - Bord na gCon, the State greyhound racing board, faces “significant challenges” financially, according to a consultant’s report, which makes a range of criticisms of its corporate governance, doping controls and animal welfare sanctions, writes the Irish Times. The 71-page report by Indecon International Consultants makes 27 recommendations, including selling its flagship Harold’s Cross track as well as a site it owns at Meelick, Co Clare, land in Cork and its old Henry Street head office in Limerick. The report says there were many “deficiencies” in the decision-making process leading to Bord na gCon going ahead with the construction of a €23 million stadium in Limerick. It says this decision was one of the reasons it is “heavily indebted” with borrowings of €21 million and concludes there was “inadequate appraisal” of the Limerick investment. Indecon states that Bord na gCon is experiencing a “poor financial performance”, with revenues falling by 55.6% since 2006 to €28.2 million in 2013. The report says it would “not be prudent” for Bord na gCon to rely solely on new initiatives to increase revenue and, as well as selling assets, it also needed to reduce the “number of race meetings and prize money at selected stadia”.
***NOONAN SAYS EUROPE DOESN'T NEED TO MICRO-MANAGE BUDGET - Brussels doesn’t need to pour over every detail of our tax and spending plans, the finance minister said ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels yesterday. His comments come as Italy, which has taken over the six month rotating presidency of the European Union, called for a looser interpretation of the budget rules that European leaders beefed up at Germany’s insistence in 2011 after the scale of Greece’s financial plight became clear. “In terms of the rules being interpreted to allow national governments to have slightly more discretion over their own budgets, that would be helpful for Ireland,’’ Mr Noonan said. “We don’t think we need to have the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted on every issue by the European Commission.” But he stopped short of pinpointing specific areas where more leeway should be given. The minister has repeatedly said Ireland can meet a crucial EU deficit target by doing less than the planned €2 billion adjustment in October’s budget, but he wouldn’t comment on what figure might be required, describing the €200m proposed by IBEC as “guesstimating’’ at this stage. Mr Noonan said the fiscal rules were designed and implemented “in times of great crisis’’. Now that that crisis has subsided, they should be revisited, he said. “If that means some flexibility in the interest of jobs and growth in Europe, that would be welcome,” he said.
KINGSPAN WORKERS SET FOR PAY RISE - Workers at building materials firm Kingspan’s flagship Irish plant at Kingscourt, Co Cavan, are in line to receive their first pay increase in seven years. It follows the Labour Court recommending that the workers receive a 2% increase in October, despite Kingspan stating that it wasn’t in a position to award a pay increase, says the Irish Examiner. Kingspan argued before the Labour Court that any increase in costs would adversely affect its competitiveness and that the concession of the union’s claim “would affect the long-term future of the company”. The firm further argued that it must continue to maintain current cost levels to remain viable. Siptu countered that the workers had not received a pay increase since 2007 and that workers had suffered a reduction in pay and terms and conditions of employment since 2010. The union said that, to date, this has not been reviewed or addressed by Kingspan. Siptu argued that the company, which employs about 100 people, is profitable and in a financial position to award a pay increase. In its recommendation, the Labour Court ruled that in return for a commitment to co-operate with normal ongoing change in the plant, there should be an increase in the pay of the workers concerned by 2% for a period of 12 months, with effect from October 1.
ECB UNDER PRESSURE TO REIN IN 'CRAZY' EURO - Pressure is mounting on the European Central Bank to take action against a persistently strong euro with a leading industrialist calling on Frankfurt to tackle the “crazy” strength of the currency. Fabrice Brégier, chief executive of Airbus’s passenger jet business, said the ECB should intervene to push the value of the euro against the dollar down by 10% from an “excessive” $1.35 to between $1.20 and $1.25. "Europe cannot be the only economic zone of the world that doesn’t consider its currency as a weapon . . . as a key asset to promote its economy,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. Mr Brégier’s comments coincide with calls from the International Monetary Fund and politicians in some eurozone countries - France in particular - for the bank to consider a programme of quantitative easing to tackle low inflation, sluggish economic growth and the strong euro. Benoît Coeuré, a member of the ECB’s executive board, acknowledged in an interview that the stronger the euro became, the more the bank would come under pressure to act. “A lot of the low level of inflation . . . is due to the strength of the euro so the stronger the euro the more we have to do monetary accommodation.” However, he rejected calls to focus on the exchange rate explicitly. “It is not possible to target it because exchange rates are set on global markets, so it wouldn’t be wise or possible for us to have it as a policy target.”