BANKS TEST NEW PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY - Ulster Bank, AIB, Permanent TSB and Deloitte have come together to establish a pilot project that will explore new blockchain technology designed to improve the speed, resilience and security of the domestic payment systems.

Known as Project GreenPay, it will use technology developed in the UK by Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank's parent company. It has already been tested in Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, with the banks passing dummy payments to each other to test it for performance, accuracy and stability, says the Irish Times. Ciarán Curran, chief administrative officer at Ulster Bank, said the project would use RBS's Emerald platform, which can acknowledge payments in under 10 seconds while handling large volumes. "When we saw that RBS had that capability, we decided to use the platform in the Republic. We looked at how we could prove it at an industry level and looked at doing collaboration at an industry level." Blockchain automates the recording of ownership and transfer of value on a single, shared distributed ledger, without the need for a central arbitrator. Transactions only need to be recorded in one place and are agreed at the point of recording by consensus. While records are added to the ledger with each additional block, no existing transactions can be changed or removed. And each block on the chain is a permanent record that cannot be rewritten. 

TOYOTA EYES NEW IRISH FINANCING ARM - The Toyota motor group is understood to be in the process of establishing its own bank in Ireland so it can provide car finance directly to customers.

The company would join a list of other car manufacturers which have already established private banks in Ireland, including Volkswagen, says the Irish Independent. A Toyota spokesperson declined to comment, however. Car makers have been stepping up their activity in offering consumers attractive financing deals in a low interest rate environment, and at a time when car sales across the country are declining again following a surge. Sales have been hit by weakened sterling, which has resulted in a UK car buying spree by Irish consumers. Data released earlier this month showed that new car sales in Ireland fell 10% year-on-year in April, but used car imports rose almost 30%. The trend has been visible for a number of months. In the first four months of 2017, 74,180 new private cars were registered in Ireland. That was a 10.9% decline on the first four months of 2016, according to the Central Statistics Office.

CANCELLED TENDERS COSTING IRISH FIRMS €300m A YEAR - Tenders provide €9 billion in new business opportunities in Ireland but not all tenders are awarded - costing Irish companies at least €300m a year.

Figures for 2016 show that 5,191 tenders were published on the eTenders website. According to data from, 3% of these were formally cancelled. More alarming is that the status of a whopping 53% of tenders is unknown. These tenders were not formally cancelled. Although reliable statistics become scarce at this point, it's reasonable to assume that 10% of these tenders never went ahead, writes the Irish Examiner. SMEs lose at least €60m a year on cancelled tenders. This figure is reached by the statistics that are readily available. If 3% of tenders are cancelled, and tenders in Ireland are worth €9 billion annually, that equates to €300m worth of public contracts that are cancelled. The Office of Public Works (OPW) has stated that most tenders attract 4.5 submissions, while TenderScout research shows SMEs spend between 3% and 6% of the tender value on their tender proposal. Using a median figure of 4.5%, we arrive at the €60m cost SMEs incur for cancelled tenders.

BITCOIN BUBBLE FEARS AS DIGITAL CURRENCIES PASS $50 BILLION IN VALUE - Sky-high valuations for bitcoin have helped the value of crypto currencies burst through $50 billion, raising fears of an asset bubble in the unregulated market.

A growing number of alternative digital currencies - or "alt-coins" - is feeding the speculative frenzy with values in some rocketing as much as 500% in the past week. A sharp spike in the price of bitcoin, which has risen 55% this month and is worth more than gold, pushed it past $1,900 on the Bitfinex exchange on Friday, writes the Financial Times. The speculation has benefited anonymous payment systems, which are being used by cyber criminals executing widescale attacks such as the "ransomware" hack that spread across the world on Friday. Aside from bitcoin, there are more than 830 alt-coins ranging from Litecoin, a challenger to bitcoin, to MiketheMug, a coin that promises to make weekly payouts to holders. An increase in initial coin offerings (ICOs) - unregulated issuances of crypto coins where investors can raise money in bitcoin or other crypto currencies - is fuelling the market and drawing attention from lawyers and financial professionals. Many fear ICOs, which are trying to market themselves as an alternative to venture capitalists as a way of raising cash for businesses, breach existing securities law.