BANKS TO PAY MILLIONS TO REVENUE OVER TRACKERS - Banks which wrongly switched customers from tracker to variable mortgages will be liable to pay millions of euro to the Revenue Commissioners for overpayment of mortgage interest relief, the Government has confirmed.

Thousands of customers who were taken off tracker mortgages became entitled to claim a higher rate of interest relief for their variable mortgages, if the home loan was taken out before the end of December 2012, says the Irish Times. It was unclear however whether or not tracker customers who received redress or compensation from the banks for being taken off the tracker mortgage would themselves be liable to repay the extra relief to Revenue. However, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed this week that banks which overcharged customers would bear the costs of the additional interest relief those customers received from Revenue. With an estimated 20,000 customers affected, the monies owed to Revenue will run into millions of euro, given that the interest relief was paid out over a number of years in many cases. The Minister was responding to a question from the Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, during a finance committee hearing on the Finance Bill. The Department of Finance said that responsibility for repaying Revenue will rest with the banks.


CHEMIST CHAIN SAM McCAULEY LINING UP TAKEOVERS - The Sam McCauley chemist chain is eyeing acquisitions of rival pharmacy multiples, with at least one deal understood to be in the pipeline, in a strategy to accelerate the scale-up the business under new private equity owners.

The group has also beefed up its board, tapping Jimmy Tolan, the former boss of health insurer VHI, as incoming non-executive chairmans; and Tony Keohane, the former head of Tesco Ireland, as a non-executive director. The moves come after the pharmacy chain was bought in a €50m deal over the summer by Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI) a private-equity partnership of US buyout giant, Carlyle Group, and local investment house, Cardinal, writes the Irish Independent. Founder and executive chairman Sam McCauley retained a minority stake after that deal and will stay with the business as non-executive director, following the latest reshuffle. According to sources, part of the attraction for both Mr Tolan and Mr Keohane in joining the board, was the opportunity to gain a stake in the group, which ranks as the third-largest pharmacy chain in Ireland with over 30 stores and almost 600 employees nationwide. The new appointments come as the CCI Fund, ramps up an ambitious growth plan for the pharmacy chain in an effort to challenge the market dominance of the two biggest players, Lloyds and Boots.

AIRTRICITY OWNER SSE EYES MORE IRISH PROJECTS - British energy supplier SSE - which has agreed to merge its British UK retail energy supply business with Germany’s N-Power to create Britain’s second largest energy supplier - has said it is exploring future development options for onshore wind projects in Ireland as part of the recent consultation process around the design of a new renewable electricity support scheme put forward by the Government.

SSE, which owns Airtricity here, delivered two onshore wind projects - in Galway and Tyrone - earlier this year and is constructing an 18 megawatt project in Kerry, which is due to be completed early next year. The company is also continuing to advance its planning application for the Doraville wind development in Tyrone, after a new design layout including a reduction in turbine numbers, writes the Irish Examiner. "We have a strong customer base, an excellent portfolio of assets and an exciting range of investment opportunities across Ireland in energy supply and services, generation and generation development, and wholesale telecoms. Our commitment to operate as a responsible and sustainable company across all our business units in Ireland remains unchanged," said SSE Ireland managing director Stephen Wheeler. 

UK TRAIN DRIVERS ON SOUTHERN VOTE TO END DOORS DISPUTE - UK commuters on the Southern rail line will finally see some respite from strike disruption after drivers agreed to end their long-running dispute with the train operator.

Aslef, the drivers’ union, said 79.1% of drivers who voted backed a resolution to end the dispute, based on an 87.1% turnout. It includes a pay offer that will see drivers receive a 28.5% pay rise over the next five years, says the Financial Times. The vote brings a partial end to an 18-month dispute between unions and Southern over its decision to transfer responsibility for closing train doors at stations from on-board supervisors to drivers. The announcement was made as the RMT union, which represents conductors on Southern, was in the middle of fresh strike action over the driver-only operated spat. The 48-hour walkout represents RMT’s 37th and 38th strike day on Southern. RMT members are also striking on four other train operators over the same issue. Industrial action has been disrupting Southern’s services since April 2016. Both Aslef and RMT have argued that the new system could endanger passengers, although the Office of Rail and Road, the industry safety regulator, has said the new arrangement can be at least as safe as the old system. Talks between Aslef and Govia Thameslink Railway, the parent company of Southern, have been going on for most of this year, but members have twice before voted against proposed settlements. The agreement means there will be a second safety-trained person on every train covered by Southern except in "exceptional circumstances".