Tuesday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - August 26, 2014
By Finfacts Team
Aug 26, 2014 - 12:25 PM

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Irish Independent

WORKERS at Irish Rail are heaping pressure on union leaders to press the 'nuclear button' and announce all-out strike action.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary says employees see "no future" for the company as things stand.

And he has called on Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe to urgently get involved.

The second day of strike action yesterday forced about 100,000 commuters to take to buses and cars - crippling transport networks at rush hour.

Further stoppages are planned for September, but Mr O'Leary warned the possibility of an all-out stoppage cannot be ruled out, given that the union has a mandate of more than 80pc in favour of this action.

The Irish Government's cost of borrowing on the markets has fallen to an all time low, as investors bet that the European Central Bank (ECB) will launch a programme to buy up masses of bonds in an effort to pull the economy out of a deflationary slump.

Plunging borrowing costs are good news for the Government here - and make its plan to save €375m a year by replacing costly IMF rescue loans with new bonds even more compelling.

But, the good news for the Government really reflects alarm at the ECB about the weakness of the economy across the wider euro area.

The price paid on the markets for European government bonds surged, pushing yields from Germany to Ireland and Spain down to new records, after ECB President Mario Draghi gave his strongest signal yet that officials are moving closer to so-called quantitative easing (QE) in a speech late on Friday .

The euro zone's flat-lining economy took another hit on Monday when data showed German business sentiment sagging for the fourth month running, while a row over the lack of growth led the French government to resign.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting one of Europe's few bright spots, recovering Spain, blamed some of her own country's decline in the second quarter on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, over which tit-for-tat sanctions threaten trade.

The Munich-based Ifo think-tank echoed some of those sentiments as it reported its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of 7,000 companies, fell to a worse-than-expected 106.3 from 108 - the lowest level in more than a year.

The findings gelled with data earlier in the month on the second-quarter contraction in Germany, the bloc's biggest economy.

Irish Times

The increased cost of severe and persistent weather saw pre-tax profits slide by 83 per cent FBD Holdings in the first six months of the year, down to €3.3 million, as the company put the cost of January and February’s storms at € 44.3 million. Looking to the full year, the insurer re-affirmed its earnings per share guidance at 70 - 80 cent per share, “subject to no further exceptional weather events arising.”

Andrew Langford, group chief executive, said it was a “robust” set of results, in a period significantly influenced by weather and an increase in claims frequency across the Irish car insurance market.

“In this period, we have worked tirelessly to put things right for over 9,000 customers directly impacted by the severe weather, at a cost of € 44.3 million. Our strong position and continuing investment in the Irish market delivered further growth in premium and market share. The increased interim dividend delivers on our commitment to a progressive dividend policy and reflects our confidence in our strategy for the future,” he said.

Average weekly pay rates in the public sector are nearly a third higher than those in the private sector, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO figures also indicate the pay gap between the sectors is widening. The findings are likely to reignite the public-private pay debate in the run-up to the budget. The figures show average weekly earnings in the public sector in the second quarter of this year were €919, almost €300 higher than €622 recorded for the private sector.

They also indicate the average weekly wage in the public sector rose by €15.88 or 1.8 per cent between the first and second quarters of this year.
At the same time, weekly earnings in the private sector fell by €8.53 or 1.4 per cent.

US stocks are at levels that have preceded past market crashes, Nobel economist Robert Shiller is warning.

Shiller famously used his cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (Cape), which averages earnings over 10-year periods, to warn of “irrational exuberance” during the dotcom era. Today’s Cape of 25 has been exceeded on only three occasions – in 1929, 2000 and 2007, severe crashes following each time.

Shiller’s recent New York Times piece on the “mystery of lofty stock market elevations” does not impress bulls. They point to accounting changes and argue stocks deserve higher multiples than in the past, given the biggest S&P 500 sector – technology – is made up of high-margin companies.

Meanwhile, a recent paper says Cape is less predictive than previously thought. The authors prefer an adjusted version of Warren Buffett’s favourite indicator, stock market capitalisation as a percentage of GDP.

Irish Examiner

Eircom is unlikely to formally update on progress being made on its future ownership review when it publishes its latest set of annual results on Friday.

Despite the smart money being on an IPO later this year, the company has consistently said its strategic options review remains ongoing and no decision has been made as to its long-term ownership structure.

A spokesperson for the group said yesterday that “the review is not concluded and no option has been decided upon”.

They suggested that an outcome is not solely a question of timing.


Euro Topics: France's Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg's criticism of the French austerity policy apparently led to a collapse of the government on Monday. Prime Minister Manuel Valls handed in his cabinet's resignation and now faces the task of forming a new one. This discord shows that Paris can't stand up to Berlin's austerity dictates, some commentators write. Others hope that the path has been cleared for urgent reforms.

Although France's President Hollande has made many mistakes, it's unfair to blame him alone for his country's political paralysis, the left-liberal daily German Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: "For decades France has failed to prepare its state, administration, taxation and social systems for the globalised world. Hollande's conservative predecessors Chirac and Sarkozy undertook too little. And now the Socialist Hollande, of all people, is starting to make unpopular changes to the French model. ... Save President Hollande. If the president and his new government press ahead with the current reforms, Berlin and Brussels should meet him half way - with European investment programmes, joint measures against unemployment and above all more flexibility regarding the magic new debt limit of three percent of GDP. Because it won't help anyone if the French budget is restructured but the president and the moderate forces in the country go bankrupt in the process."

Minsk summit can ease Ukraine conflict: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and representatives of the EU will come face to face at the summit of the Eurasian Customs Union taking place this Tuesday in Minsk. The liberal daily Keskisuomalainen writes that the significance of the meeting should not be underestimated: "Even if we can't expect Minsk to provide a solution to the Ukraine conflict, the meeting in itself is important. With it Putin recognises Poroshenko as Ukraine's leader. This summit, held at the behest of the governments of Kazakhstan and Belarus, offers the opportunity to present the Eurasian Union imposed by Russia to the rest of the world. The EU can make it clear to Russia that the association agreement with Ukraine is not aimed at hurting Russia. ... The meeting in Minsk is necessary because the crisis has simply become too serious."

Merkel rewards Madrid for austerity discipline: The German government supports the candidacy of Spanish Minister for Economic Affairs Luis de Guindos for president of the Eurogroup, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday following a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Santiago de Compostela. At last Madrid will wield some clout again in Europe, the conservative daily El Mundo comments jubilantly: "Now that it's highly probably that Luis de Guindos will be appointed president of the Eurogroup, our country will regain some of its lost influence in the EU's institutions. In recent years Spain's power within the Union has gradually dwindled, for example two years ago when it lost its place on the ECB's board of directors. This return to the top decision-making posts is the reward for having fulfilled our obligations regarding our European partners."

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