BANKS NO LONGER USING SBCI'S SME LOAN SCHEME – The country's main banks have stopped using a State fund set up to channel low cost finance to SMEs, because lenders can access cheap money in their own right, the Irish Independent reports today.

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) was set up to ensure favourable loan rates reached SMEs, by funnelling State-sourced money through the banks, who could then pass on the benefits. Irish SMEs pay some of the highest borrowing costs in Europe.

But SBCI chairman Conor O'Kelly - also chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency - said banks were bypassing the SBCI because they have access to low interest rates on the open market.

The comments are contained in a letter to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and released under Freedom of Information rules.

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DIGICEL PURSUES ORANGE FOR ADDITIONAL €80M IN CARIBBEAN DISPUTE – The Irish Times reports that businessman Denis O’Brien’s Digicel has taken legal action seeking an additional €80m from French telecoms giant Orange in relation to a long-running anti-competitive practices dispute in the Caribbean.

The Paris Commercial Court ruled last December that Orange pay Digicel €179.6m in damages, plus costs and interest calculated off an annual rate of 10.5% dating back to March 2009.

It came as the French group was found to have abused its dominant position in the French West Indies.

Orange said in its latest financial report for the first half of 2017 that it had set aside €346m in an escrow account to cover the cost.

However, Digicel claims the award should be €426m – some €80m higher – as the interest should be calculated on a compound basis rather than the simple interest formula used by Orange.

Legal correspondence, seen by The Irish Times, shows that the Digicel case will come before the Paris Court of Appeal on 4 September.

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CELEBRITIES' BACKDOOR ENDORSEMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA FACE DAY OF RECKONING – The Financial Times reports that the UK’s competition and consumer protection watchdog has opened an investigation into celebrity "influencers" who use social media to advertise brands and products without revealing if they have been paid to do so.

The Competition and Markets Authority has written to a number of celebrities to "gather information about their posts and the nature of the business agreements they have in place with brands".