Irish technology companies raised €120m in the first quarter of this year. At that rate venture capital investments in tech firms here are on track to outstrip the €401m total for last year which itself represented a 41% increase on 2013.

Regina Breheny, director general of the Irish Venture Capital Association, says the first quarter figures are very healthy, adding that the association is cautiously optimistic that this kind of momentum can be continued. Ms Breheny says that quarter figures are always quite tricky as one big deal can distort them. She says that venture capital is a scarce resource and should only increase as demand from entrepreneurs increases. That is what is happening in the Irish market at the moment and the association is seeing tremendous pipeline of new companies coming on stream supported by the seed funds set up a number of years ago. 

"The quality of those companies is terrific and they are moving into an expansion stage and VCs are stepping up to the plate," Ms Breheny states. She says that venture capital companies are bringing in international funds, through syndicated deals. This is a critical move for Irish venture capital because there is not enough capital on the island as it stands, she adds. 

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MORNING BRIEFS - The UK's competition and markets authority has issued a final order for Ryanair to dispose of the bulk of its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus. The CMA says the current position distorts competition on routes between Ireland and the UK. Among other things the CMA said the stake gives Ryanair the power to block potential new entrants by preventing any takeover of Aer Lingus. Ryanair had argued that IAG's attempt to buy Aer Lingus demonstrated that Ryanair's stake in the airline would not put off a potential acquirer. But in its final ruling, the CMA this morning said the very fact that Ryanair is in a position to decide whether that bid succeeds or fails, depending on whether it agrees to sell its stake to IAG, justifies the CMA's order.

*** Shannon Airport has reported a surge in passenger traffic to and from the US during May. Shannon reported an 18% rise in inbound visitors from US routes including Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Overall traffic through Shannon in May was 5% ahead of last year despite the loss of Aer Lingus regional services to the UK. Aer Lingus regional has resumed its Birmingham route, however, this month. Shannon chief executive Neil Pakey predicted the June traffic figures will be well ahead of last year.

*** Dublin listed life science company Malin has announced its second transaction in as many days. After a $35m deal to invest in a company developing antibiotics to treat drug resistant infections yesterday, Malin has this morning disclosed a €34.5m investment in to acquire a 65% stake in Altan. Altan is a private, Irish headquartered speciality pharmaceutical company. It supplies generic versions of injectable pain and anti-infective drugs.

*** Ireland's largest chain of chemists, Lloyds Pharmacy, has plans to expand from its current 91 outlets to 150 over the next three years. In an interview with the Irish Independent, managing director Goretti Brady said LloydsPharmacy, owned by the German company Celesio, will expand mostly through acquisition but will also open some new pharmacies on greenfield sites.

*** British Chancellor George Osborne is set to crystallise a £7.2 billion loss for taxpayers in the UK as prepares to offload the state's 79% stake in RBS. The lender, which was bailed out by the then Labour government in 2008, has reported seven consecutive annual losses and is not expected to return to profit until next year at the earliest. It is worth significantly less than the £45 billion paid to bail it out. George Osborne said at an event last night in London that he had been advised by Bank of England governor Mark Carney that it was in the public interest to begin to return RBS, the parent company of Ulster Bank here, to full private ownership.