The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) is backing a €140m renewable energy project that will see 20 solar parks developed across the country. The new parks will be developed by Power Capital. The project is also being backed by Germany's Capital Stage, a stock market listed solar and wind park operator. The ISIF has a mandate to invest in projects that will support economic activity and employment growth here and this is the first time it has invested in a domestic solar energy project.

Justin Brown, one of the co-founders of Power Capital, said that when the company was first set up in 2011 there was no market for solar energy in Ireland at all and it needed to look to other countries - like Germany - to develop the business. But now the company is back in Ireland and is focusing mainly on Irish projects. Mr Brown welcomed the fact that Power Capital is able to attract funding from the likes of the ISIF and Capital Stage. 

Power Capital has 20 sites around the country, which according to Justin Brown will provide 140 megawatts in total capacity. He explains that once operational the 20 sites will provide power for about 25,000 homes in the course of a year. A number of the sites are shovel ready and have a contracted grid connection with planning permission and permits and so are ready to go, according to Mr Brown. But in the absence of a subsidiary or support mechanism, the earliest time he sees the projects being built is towards the "back end of the year and early 2019", he added.

Mr Brown said that wind power has seen massive growth on the back of refit tariff support schemes, which have been in operation for a long time. But solar power has not had the same supports to date. A consultation about the renewal energy support scheme did close last year and Power Capital is now seeing "significant leadership" from the large multinationals - which are big energy users. He said they are making statements about how much they need renewable energy to power their facilities and their operations, which is focusing attention on the sector.

MORNING BRIEFS - For the first time in five years, IBM has reported a rise in quarterly revenue growth overnight. That broke a 22 quarter losing streak for the technology company. IBM, which employs over 3,000 people here, generated $22.5 billion in revenue, up 4% on the same quarter a year earlier. Despite this IBM shares fell 3% in after-hours trading overnight.

*** American Express posted a $1.2 billion loss for the final quarter of 2017 after taking a one-off charge of $2.6 billion due to the new US tax law. Among other things, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 changes the tax treatment of profits generated by US companies overseas. American Express is expected to be a beneficiary of the tax reform over the longer term but the exceptional charge pushed it to a first quarterly loss in over 20 years.

*** Shares in Carpetright have lost almost half their value on the London Stock Exchange this morning after a profit warning. The UK-based retailer has 21 stores in Ireland. In a trading update this morning, it said a sharp deterioration in UK trade has had a "significant impact on profitability and its outlook for the rest of the year". Sales for the 11 weeks to the end of January were down just over 2%. International sales, however, including its Irish division were ahead by 4%. Carpetright said the weakness in UK trading during the festive period was indicative of falling customer confidence.