Yesterday it emerged that the European Commission investigation into Apple's tax arrangements with Ireland has been held up and will not be concluded in June, as was the original plan. 

Fine Gael Dublin MEP Brian Hayes has it called the situation "entirely unsatisfactory". Mr Hayes said he did not know what was behind the delay, but said Commissioner Vesteger said she did not want to issue an omnibus ruling for all three countries that are being investigated for different alleged deals. "This situation has gone on for several years now and it's unsatisfactory that we're not going to get a result by the end of June, as promised. We have no new timeline for when a result will be issued," he stated.

Mr Hayes said the Government was confident that the case would work in Ireland's favour. "It's important that we get it right. The reputation of a country and a big player is on the line. I made the point to the Commissioner that Apple is not some brass plate postbox operation. This is a business that represents 4,000 workers in Ireland," he said. "The Commission has a responsibility to make sure the result is right and known in a timely fashion. As long as this remains, there is an inference that there is something wrong with the Irish tax position which there is not. We need to ensure that it's known that we have a transparent tax regime," he concluded.

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It all started with three big deals back in 2009: Pfizer acquired Wyeth, Merck bought Schering-Plough and Roche merged with Genentech. But since then a wave of mergers and acquisitions has taken place across the pharma and life sciences sectors. 

Benjamin Perkins, Senior Managing Director in Mergers & Acquisitions and Group Head of US Life Sciences with EY, said the acquisitions were largely driven by Wall Street expectations for earnings. "A lot of the major pharma companies haven't been able to produce innovative new drugs. Consolidation is required to meet expectations of investors," he explained. 

Mr Perkins said the consolidation of drug companies did not necessarily mean higher prices for drugs. "This is all about competition in the marketplace. If you have fewer competitors producing molecules that are entering the same disease categories, you should have prices that are not being elevated," he said. 

He also said he believed the wave of consolidation should not affect the sector in Ireland. "Ireland has emerged as one of the leading EU participants in medtech and pharma. The ability of companies to invest here over the last 20 years, with many of their employees innovate and start their own businesses has seen Ireland emerge as a centre of innovation," he explained. Mr Perkins said there was a threat from a production standpoint from emerging nations, but the innovation side would be unaffected.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Building materials group CRH has reported a solid start to 2015. In an interim management statement, the group said sales from continuing operations were up 2.5%. It reported continued momentum in the Americas, with sales from continuing operations up 8%. Its performance in Europe was slightly behind a tough prior year comparative and sales from continuing operations there were down 2%. CRH recently received competition clearance from European regulators which would allow its planned purchase of €6.5 billion worth of assets from rivals Lafarge and Holcim to proceed.

*** NAMA has put a large portfolio of real estate loans with a face value of €600m on sale. According to Bloomberg, the portfolio - which is dubbed Project Arch - was used to buy up hotels and development land in Dublin, Galway and Kilkenny. It is understood the loans - which relate to five debtors - will be sold at a discount.

*** The country's services sector recorded a 33rd consecutive month of expansion in April, according to Investec's Services PMIs. New orders continued to increase both from domestic and overseas clients.  The UK continues to be a key driver of growth in export orders, assisted by a fall in the euro against sterling. However, the benefit of the weak euro has been partly offset by more costly imports.

*** Rupert Murdoch's News Corp reported third quarter net profits down 52%, compared with the same period last year. The owner of The Times, The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal recorded profits of $23m for the quarter ended March 31 on the back of declining advertising revenues and circulations for print publications. Revenues were down by 1% to $2.06 billion. The group's online property division shored up the results but newspapers are continuing to struggle where ad revenue was down 12% and circulation and subscription revenue fell 6%. Its book publishing division, which includes Harper Collins, performed well in the three month period.