INTEL POISED FOR MAJOR LEIXLIP INVESTMENT - Intel, the giant microchip manufacturer, is to begin preparatory work at its base in Leixlip this month in what is widely seen as a prelude to a significant expansion in capacity there.

Although the company has made no formal announcement about its plans, it is widely expected in official circles that it will move to increase manufacturing capacity at the Leixlip plant, with thousands of construction jobs created initially and hundreds of technician roles once the new facility is built. The investment plan is likely to run into billions of euro over a period of years, as part of a programme being undertaken by the company to increase capacity worldwide, writes the Irish Times. The company confirmed this week that it was beginning "enabling work" at the Co Kildare plant this month. It already has planning permission for a new 90,000sq m facility adjacent to its existing site. In December, the company announced plans to expand its global manufacturing capacity to meet increased demand for its microchips. In a statement published on the company's website, general manager of manufacturing Ann Kelleher said that the increase in demand for its products was "the biggest market opportunity in Intel's history". She said the company was "now in the early planning phase for manufacturing site expansions in Oregon, Ireland and Israel, with multi-year construction activities expected to begin in 2019."

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PROPERTY TAX BILLS AT RISK OF CRIPPLING €500 HIKES - Thousands of homeowners face a massive hike in their property tax bills unless sweeping changes to the unpopular levy are made. 

Some families could be hit with annual hikes of almost €500 because property prices have soared since the tax - based on the market value of the home - was introduced in 2013. Back then, the 'average' cost of a home nationally was just under €150,000, which incurred a bill of €225. However, the latest house price data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows this national average has since increased to €256,000, which means bills for 'average' homeowners will rise to €495 - an increase of €270, writes the Irish Independent. Among those hardest hit will be families living in Clifden, Co Galway, where an average home was priced at €52,500 in 2013 but has since soared to €305,000. Under the existing system, the tax will rise from €90 a year to €585. Other areas facing high increases are Dublin 7, where bills could rise from €225 to €650; Newbridge in Co Kildare, where rising prices mean average bills could increase from €90 to €495; and Dublin 14, where families could face a rise from €585 to €956. The Local Property Tax (LPT) is assessed at 0.18% of its market value. It is designed to fund local services, and replaces direct exchequer funding for local authorities.

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CHAIRMAN McGANN POINTS TO CHALLENGES FACING ARYZTA AND PADDY POWER - The chairman of Irish-Swiss foods firm Aryzta has said he is unsure he would have taken on the job if he had realised the challenges facing the troubled business. 

Gary McGann, who is also chairman of Paddy Power, said it would be a "multi-year turnaround" for Aryzta, which has lost around 84% of its stock market value in the past year, says the Irish Examiner. The Cuisine de France owner, which also makes burger buns for McDonald's, had been hampered by underperformance in the US and investor ire at the lack of certain asset disposals. A contentious near €800m rights issue with the funds to be used to lighten Aryzta’s then debt of €1.5 billion and strengthen its balance-sheet was narrowly approved by shareholders in November. Shares in the firm rose more than 6% yesterday, with the firm valued at just over €1.1 billion. Mr McGann, speaking at the Pendulum Summit event in Dublin, said: "I like a challenge but I am not a masochist. I knew there were plenty of challenges, I knew the nature of the challenges. The challenges were far greater than any of us had considered. I'd like to think I’d be brave hearted and go in, but maybe not, I don’t know. But I’m in, and once I make a commitment, then I make a commitment." Mr McGann said chief executive Kevin Toland, who was appointed over a year ago, was the right man to turn around the business.

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NO-DEAL BREXIT WOULD PUT THOUSANDS OF UK JOBS AT RISK, CBI WARNS  - A no-deal Brexit would have profound economic consequences with GDP shrinking by up to 8%, putting thousands of jobs at risk, the Confederation of British Industry is to warn. 

The UK business body is urging MPs to back Theresa May’s deal, describing it as a "solution" businesses can work with as it delivers a transition period and avoids a "hugely damaging cliff edge". It says if parliament does not agree, it must immediately outline its plan to avert no deal and secure British jobs. With just four days to go before the prime minister’s last-ditch attempt to get parliamentary approval for her deal, the CBI is piling on the pressure to avert a no-deal outcome, which it believes would be a disaster for Britain, says today's Guardian. In a keynote speech on Friday, its director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, will call on MPs to "safeguard the security and prosperity of our country" and put jobs and the economy ahead of politics when they vote on Tuesday. Her plea comes a day after the car industry revealed it was already in the grip of a Brexit chill. The Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) chief executive, Ralf Speth, said the company’s "liquidity" would be at stake in a no-deal scenario, and Honda announced it would put production on hold for six days in April because of Brexit to assess the impact of delays on the Dover-Calais freight route on its production lines. If the impact is negative, production could be paused for longer, experts believe.