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News : Irish Last Updated: Dec 13, 2012 - 9:57 AM


Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - December 13, 2012
By Finfacts Team
Dec 13, 2012 - 9:52 AM

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The Irish Independent reports that the ISEQ is on course for one of the biggest rises of any benchmark index in western Europe, according to calculations by the newspaper.

The total return, which includes capital gains and dividends, has risen more than 23pc in the past 12 months as stocks such as Glanbia and Smurfit Kappa reach new heights and international investors return to the market.

The benchmark index has soared while indices in many other indebted European countries have struggled. Portugal's PSI-20 index has risen just 2.7pc in the past 12 months while Spain's IBEX index is down 4.7pc. Italy's main index has gained just 5.8pc.

The ISEQ was one of the first indices to collapse in the wake of the international crisis because our banks made up such a large part of the value.

Now it is rebounding quicker than most as value investors such as Wilbur Ross, who holds a 9.7pc stake in Bank of Ireland, believe Ireland is over the worst of the crisis.

Stock markets in many parts of the world have rebounded in 2012 as central banks flooded the world with cheap credit.

"Close to the end of the year, markets seem to know only one direction – further upwards," Roger Peeters, chief executive officer at Close Brothers in Frankfurt, said yesterday.

"The technical situation is improving with some encouraging economic figures. It does not look like this trend will stop in the short term."

Eurozone banks benefited disproportionately from a rally that began in July after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to defend the euro, later unveiling a plan for the ECB to buy the bonds of indebted eurozone states.

Germany

German stocks jumped to their highest levels in almost five years last night, bringing gains over the past 12 months to a whopping 31pc.

The only country in western Europe to post bigger gains was Greece where the ASE advanced 32pc.

While the ISEQ is still some distance from Greece or Germany's performance, it has done far better than most other European countries.

The Paris-based CAC is up 18pc while Belgium's Bel-20 is 20pc higher. Holland's exchange has risen 16pc.

Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 has underperformed most other exchanges over the past 12 months, rising just 9.5pc. Many analysts expect the FTSE 100 to reverse a year of underperformance and outpace European peers in early 2013 if its heavyweight mining sector receives an anticipated boost from Chinese growth.

The MSCI world equity index has gained over 11pc so far this year helped by big gains in Asian shares outside Japan which have reached 16-month highs.

In Ireland, the best-performing stocks have been exploration company Providence Resources (up 165pc), paper maker Smurfit Kappa (up 122pc), travel software company Datalex (up 121pc), dairy company Glanbia (up 78pc), clinical trials company ICON (72p), insurer FBD (60pc) and Aer Lingus (60pc).

While a swing of 23pc is large by international standards, the ISEQ is more prone to swings than most other exchanges. The benchmark index advanced 0.6pc last year and fell 3pc the previous year.

In 2009, in the midst of our economic collapse, it posted a 27pc gain as bank stocks recovered from record lows.

In 2008, the same index plunged 66pc as investors fled. In 2007, it slid 27pc.

The Irish Independent also reports that Ireland could be facing a modern gold rush after a low-profile exploration company reported it had found gold worth "millions" in the south-east.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, IMC Exploration said it had found an exceptional level of gold deposits after drilling.

The company said drilling had found 11.38 troy ounces of gold per tonne of earth. That is more than 300 times the size of the reported finds in Clontibret, Co Monaghan.

"These results are one of the highest-recorded gold grades ever found in Ireland and the company is rapidly progressing with ongoing drilling," the company said.

Potential

Company managing director Dr Glenn Millar said the results were "exceptional" at 11oz per tonne.

"This confirms the outstanding exploration potential of the area and highlights the materiality of this asset. IMC Exploration continues to be fired up and expects more success with their exploration in this area as our on-going drilling programme continues," he added.

The company is made of industry veterans including Hugh Gibney, who helped set up the Tara Mines in the 1960s and was a founder of Oliver Prospecting, which has since morphed into the billion dollar oil company, Dragon Oil.

Separately, the company recently announced positive results confirming the potential for zinc in Co Wicklow.

The find has raised fears that Ireland could lose its natural resources without receiving a true value for them but company director Neil Ring said the nation would be a huge beneficiary through investment and employment.

"It takes companies like IMC to put a lot of money into the drilling programme and obviously the Government cannot go around drilling for gold everywhere," he said.

The Irish Times reports that Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has pledged his country will stay in the eurozone despite the fact that it will suffer more in the process than any European country has endured in peacetime.

Speaking to a group of foreign journalists at the prime minister’s office in Athens ahead of today’s release of EU-IMF bailout funds for Greece, Mr Samaras said his Government had demonstrated the credibility necessary to put an end to speculation that it might leave the euro.

He said Greece had gone through thick and thin over the past few years but insisted that his three-party coalition had now provided stability.

“Our decision was to stay in Europe and to stay in the euro zone, and to prove to the whole world we can do it.”

He said Greece had to abide by the deal it had signed up to with its EU partners and to deliver the promised savings and reforms. Already 72 of the pledged reforms had been implemented in law.

“Credibility is very important. That is why people help us. We could not have engaged in anything different and stayed on the European course,” he said.

Pro-European 

The prime minister said his New Democracy Party was pro-European and could not have done anything else, but he added that the measures required to stay in the euro zone like cuts in pensions and pay were painful and difficult for the Greek people.

Mr Samaras said that as well as spending adjustments structural reform of the tax system and the entire system of governance were necessary and would be implemented.

“From the end of 2009 to the end of 2013, we are going to lose a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).

“That has never happened in peacetime in any European country.”

Mr Samaras said that as difficult as the measures being taken by his government were, Greece would not only have to stick with what it was doing but to do it fast.

He added that the release of today’s huge tranche of EU-IMF funds marked a new day for his country.

He said the funds would be spent in four ways.

The first would involve the recapitalisation of the country’s banks, while the second would enable the government to pay out over €9 billion it owed to Greek people and businesses. “This will help in terms of justice, psychology and liquidity,” he said.

Mr Samaras said the third important aspect of the transfers was that it would enable Greece to draw down EU structural funds, while the fourth would be to put an end to drachmaphobia.

Held us hostage’ 

“This is something that has held us hostage for a long time. Will Greece stay in the euro or go? This story is finished and that will have a spillover effect on the economy and psychology.”

Mr Samaras said there would be opportunities for Greece in tourism and agriculture exports, and that would required both foreign and Greek investment.

“In the past there was a lot of red tape. Today we want to offer the red carpet treatment for investors. This is a pro-business economy.”

The prime minister said the trauma of what had happened in Greece had been very great, but it was important to protect social cohesion.

“Without it democracy doesn’t work and the economy doesn’t work.”

Mr Samaras praised his country’s EU partners and singled out Taoiseach Enda Kenny, whom he described as “a very impressive man”.

The leader of the second party in the Greek coalition government, Evangelos Venizelos of Pasok, delivered a similar message , saying the three-party coalition would last and would deliver on its commitments.

Social situation 

However, he accepted that the social situation was very difficult, with the official rate of unemployment at 23 per cent and youth unemployment at over 50 per cent.

He described the government’s commitment to a savings package of €14.5 billion over this year and next as the last wave of very difficult fiscal measures, and he pointed out that since the beginning of the crisis the total taken out of the economy had been €65 billion.

He described this as a “conservative neo-liberal approach”, but said Greece had not choice but to accept it.

Mr Venizelos said there was now a financial and fiscal European cold war, with a small group of powerful countries imposing their solutions on weaker countries.

The Irish Times also reports that thousands of farmer shareholders will get a windfall worth an average of €15,000 to €20,000 after Glanbia cleared the last of three hurdles to reforming its company structure yesterday.

More than 83 per cent of Glanbia co-op members voted in favour of a deal to reduce the co-op’s shareholding in Glanbia plc to 41 per cent.

Yesterday’s vote was the third and final vote in a complex deal to form a new joint venture between the plc and Glanbia co-op which will be known as Glanbia Ingredients Ireland. The new venture will be the largest dairy processing business in the country.

Under co-op rules, the deal had to be passed by 75 per cent of eligible members at two special general meetings. The first, which saw the vote carried with an 82 per cent majority, took place two weeks ago; yesterday’s vote confirmed that.

Some 4,522 farmers cast their votes in Gowran Park, Kilkenny, yesterday, slightly less than the 4,649 who made the earlier journey.

Yesterday’s vote means that members will get a windfall as part of the share spin-out and sale. They will receive 7 per cent of the issued share capital of the plc and can then sell or keep the shares. That shareholding is worth about €157 million and farmers will receive, on average, between €15,000 and €20,000 worth of shares.

Debt clearing 

A further 3 per cent shareholding, worth about €67 million, will be used to help fund the ingredients business and clear debts in the co-op.

The ballot was conducted independently by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.

Glanbia co-op chairman Liam Herlihy said the vote concluded “an historic and transformative process” for the society and its members. “It’s been an incredible day in the history of the organisation, in the history of farmers and in the history of Glanbia,” he said.

Glanbia plc managing director John Moloney said the vote was a great opportunity for the society. “I think it’s a great day for the shareholders and it’s a significant reward for the team in the plc to see value going back into farm families and homes down through the south-east of Ireland.”

Yesterday’s meeting also approved a motion to allow the threshold for key ballots to drop from the current 75 per cent to 66 per cent. Any future reduction in the co-op’s shareholding in Glanbia plc below 38 per cent will now require a two-thirds majority of co-op members in a single ballot.

The Irish Examiner reports that Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate is coming under unprecedented pressure from the UK, US and the EU.

It might be better for the Government to voluntarily close some of the loopholes that make it attractive for multinationals to locate here rather than be implicated in a wider clampdown on tax havens.

Starbucks is the latest big multinational to be lacerated before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee for the non- payment of corporate tax in the UK. It follows the likes of Google, Amazon and other big brands that have faced the wrath of MPs over their minimal UK tax liabilities.

No evidence of wrongdoing has been uncovered in any of these hearings, but the Public Accounts Committee has put the issue of corporate tax high up the public agenda.

Most OECD countries, and in particular Ireland, are introducing austerity policies. The public mood is very much moving against big companies avoiding their fair share of tax. But what is a fair amount of tax is highly subjective.

Multinationals say that by using all legally available means to reduce their final tax bill, the company’s shareholders are the main beneficiaries.

Large swathes of the international media have depicted Ireland as a tax haven. If a political consensus forms at G8 level that involves legislating against tax havens, then Ireland could be in the firing line.

The Government says Ireland does not share any characteristics with a tax haven. It has a comparatively low corporate tax rate but it is transparent and fully compliant with all existing international tax treaties and legislation.

University of Limerick economics lecturer Stephen Kinsella argues that the Irish tax regime might be following the letter of the law but that does not mean it follows the spirit of the law. "Ireland is tax avoidance compliant."

A complex tax structure known as the ‘double Irish’, which enables multinationals reduce their effective tax rate to below 5%, is often cited as evidence that Ireland is an important cog in a global network of jurisdictions that facilitate tax minimisation.

JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon once said capital goes wherever it wants to go, but stays where it is best looked after.

In other words, if the Irish Government starts unilaterally changing the corporate tax framework, then that could presage an exodus of multinationals from the country.

"If the Government changed the corporate tax system and suddenly a multinational was paying 9% instead of 5%, then that would bring in billions every year for the Exchequer," said Mr Kinsella. "But it would take a brave minister for finance to do that. It would depend on what is happening elsewhere."

Certainly maintaining a low corporate tax rate has been a priority for successive governments. It is seen as attractive in attracting foreign direct investment.

In the US presidential election, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney described Ireland as a tax haven. Raising the Irish corporate tax rate plays well among the electorates of most EU states. In his pre-budget submission last week, the UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne criticised Ireland for its tax policy.

If the Government wants to maintain the headline 12.5%, then it might need to tighten up on loopholes. Otherwise, an internationally co-ordinated movement could threaten Irish tax sovereignty.

Foreign news reviews and more comprehensive coverage of Irish news is available in our Daily News Digest in the Global category on Finfacts Premium.

Check out our subscription service, Finfacts Premium , at a low annual charge of €25 - - if you are a regular user of Finfacts, 50 euro cent a week is hardly a huge ask to support the service.


© Copyright 2011 by Finfacts.com

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