EIR DELIVERS €56m RURAL LINE PHONE BILL - Eir wants €56m for having kept rural phone lines going in recent years.

The telecoms company says that the current system, where it is expected to service rural homes and businesses with phone lines by itself, is not fair and that this universal service obligation (USO) law is leaving it substantially out of pocket. Eir has now asked for €12m as reimbursement for operating such phone lines last year. This, the company says, would come from other operators. This adds to the €44m it has requested as reimbursement for rural phones maintained from 2010 to 2015, reports the Irish Independent. Telecoms regulator ComReg is to decide the issue with a preliminary judgement expected in coming months. "ComReg will verify if there is a net cost, determine whether or not any such net cost constitutes an unfair burden on Eir and if so, it is necessary to establish a sharing mechanism," said a statement from ComReg. "We are currently assessing the funding applications received from Eir for its financial years 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, and 2014/15 and are in the process of forming our preliminary views and preparing for consultation on these applications." 

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INVESTOR MML BUYS €12m STAKE IN FASTWAY COURIERS - Irish and multinational-backed investor MML has bought a minority stake in Fastway Couriers for a figure said to be about €12 million.

Fastway delivers for online retailers such as Littlewoods, Boohoo and Missguided, small businesses and other organisations, through a franchised network of about 300 drivers around the Republic. It also owns the Parcel Connect drop off and collection service, says the Irish Times. MML, whose backers include Enterprise Ireland, AIB, US-based Cigna Corporation and the European Investment Bank, has invested in the business alongside chief executive, Bobby O’Keeffe. The fund has taken a minority shareholding - thought to be more than one third - of the five key companies that make up the group, including Fastway's Dublin regional franchise, its sorting facility, logistics network and Parcel Connect. It is understood that it spent a figure somewhere in excess of €10 million buying the stake. MML generally invests up to €12 million in the companies in which it buys shares.

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SPANISH BREWER TO BUY 32% OF O'HARA'S CRAFT BEER BUSINESS - Spanish premium beer producer Hijos de Rivera is to take a significant shareholding in the Carlow Brewing Company, the company behind O'Hara’s craft beer range.

The family-owned La Coruna-based company is best known for its Estrella Galicia beer. It has reached agreement to buy a 32% stake in the Carlow Brewing Company for an undisclosed sum. The deal is understood not to be the first step in a takeover of the Bagenalstown-based brewer, but rather a solidifying of existing ties, says the Irish Examiner. Hijos de Rivera is already Carlow Brewing's Spanish importer and the deal will help push O'Hara's labels into other European and South American markets. "We have spent the last two years developing our connection with the brewery since they became our Spanish importer, and this gives me great confidence they can make a significant contribution to the future success of Carlow Brewing Company, especially in helping us develop new and existing export markets for our beer and cider," said Carlow Brewing Company chief executive Seamus O'Hara. "I think we can learn a lot from them, but we can also bring an entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge of the craft beer sector to the partnership," he added. 

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BRUSSELS PUSHES TO SECURE LIFETIME EU RIGHTS FOR MIGRANT WORKERS IN BRITAIN - Brussels is pushing for EU workers in Britain to enjoy the full range of their EU rights for the whole of their lifetimes, enforced by the European Commission and overseen by European courts.

The hardline opening position in Brexit talks is outlined in an informal European Commission negotiating paper that in effect attempts to maintain the EU model in perpetuity for migrant workers in Britain and for British workers in other countries in the bloc, says the Financial Times. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, wants to demand that Britain continue to apply key European social and employment rules - and extend them to family members of foreign workers who come to the UK even after the country’s withdrawal from the bloc. The requirements would mean, for example, that contentious rules allowing UK child benefit to be paid to children living elsewhere in Europe would remain in force even after Brexit - potentially for decades. In a move likely to provoke uproar in Westminster, Britain would also have to apply any "future amendments" of EU rules on benefits - meaning it could be left in the position of abiding by EU laws over which it had no say.