The Irish Independent reports that the 'Sunday Business Post' will slash up to a third of the newspaper's workforce
and ask remaining staff to accept their third pay cut in as many years if it
survives an examinership that started yesterday at the High Court.
The news comes as fears grow for 50 jobs at Webprint in Cork, an outside company
that had the contract to print newspapers including the 'Sunday Business Post'
and the 'Irish Examiner' for Thomas Crosbie Holdings until the media group that
owned the 'Sunday Business Post' went into receivership this week.
That printing contract no longer stands as a result of the receivership.
The chief executive of Webprint, Donagh O'Doherty, could not be reached for
Accountant Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton was appointed as interim examiner
of Post Publishing Ltd, which owns the 'Sunday Business Post' newspaper, at the
High Court in Dublin by Mr Justice Peter Kelly.
An interim examiner needed to be appointed straight away so that a newspaper
appears this Sunday, the court heard.
Failure to publish an edition of the newspaper would seriously affect the
confidence of advertisers and consumers, and could undermine its future chance
of survival, the court was told.
There is a reasonable chance that the business can survive following an
examinership, if certain conditions are met, the judge said.
"Examinership is desirable and necessary," he said.
The court was told that the Sunday newspaper has a staff of 76 full-time staff
and as many as 120 freelance contributors.
Fresh investment in the business will be needed as part of a rescue deal, if the
company is to emerge from examinership.
A number of potential buyers have expressed an interest in buying the paper, the
Post Publications has been loss-making since 2009. The loss for 2012 was €1.2m.
The loss this year will be €1.4m but a return to profit is projected for 2014,
according to the directors of the business. That will come about as the wider
economy returns to growth.
"We don't see much evidence of that in the Commercial Court, maybe outside,"
Mr Justice Kelly said.
Revenues at the newspaper have halved in the last five years to €7.4m.
Income from advertising, a mainstay for newspapers, fell by two-thirds.
The company is almost €600,000 behind on its rent, the court was told.
Landlord Irish Life has only been paid half its €400,000-a-year rent over
the past two years, and has unsuccessfully been trying to negotiate a rent
MR Justice Kelly was told up to 25 redundancies may have to be sought at the
newspaper as part of a restructuring.
An independent accountant's report concluded there is a reasonable prospect
for the survival of the newspaper as a going concern, providing certain
conditions are met, including the support of AIB, which has confirmed it
will support the newspaper as the examinership continues.
The appointment of an interim examiner means that staff payments will be
honoured, and suppliers will be assured that new contracts will be met.
AIB says it will provide €150,000 in emergency loans to the examiner, that
will be needed when the company's own resources are exhausted – probably 13
weeks into the process, the court was told.
A hearing to formally appoint the examiner will take place on Friday next.
The Irish Independent also reports that
industrial production fell in January by almost 2pc compared with December
and was down just over 3pc over the course of 2012 as pharmaceutical
The contraction in the fourth quarter was more severe than previously
Stockbrokers Merrion said it was also the fourth year-on-year decrease in
the past five months.
Alan McQuaid said that manufacturing growth in the short-term was expected
to be driven by industries that fall under the 'modern' umbrella.
"Given the still uncertain global economic backdrop, especially in the
eurozone and UK, the worry is that overall production will remain subdued in
the immediate future, which doesn't augur well for the prospects of Irish
exports, an integral part of the country's economic recovery hopes," he
But striking a more upbeat tone, Mr McQuaid said that when the world economy
regained momentum, Ireland was better placed than most to take advantage of
"In February, the NCB Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to
51.5 from 50.3 in January, with the increase driven by a return to growth in
new orders, which had slipped into negative territory for the first time in
a year in January.
"We are hopeful that 2013 will be a better year on the economic front, both
at home and abroad," he said.
Stockbrokers Davy said that weak demand conditions, and not simply the
impact of the pharmaceutical patent cliff, might explain the fall in modern
"It now appears industry will make a larger negative contribution to GDP
growth in Q4 than we had previously thought," chief economist Conall Mac
The Irish Times reports that
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde is to meet
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in Dublin today.
The meeting takes place at Government Buildings and
will be followed by a visit to the Central Bank and a lunch event hosted by Ms
Lagarde to mark International Women’s Day.
Ms Lagarde’s visit comes after the European
Central Bank called yesterday on the Government to step up its banking reforms,
with bank governor Mario Draghi urging “further action”.
Mr Draghi was speaking as Central Bank figures
showed that while the pace of growth in mortgage arrears is slowing, about
23,500 mortgages have not been paid for two years or more.
John Moran, secretary general of the Department
of Finance, told the Public Accounts Committee that the level of repossessions
in the Republic was “uncharacteristically low” but that banks should soon be
able to “move forward” on tackling problem home loans.
The Republic has a repossession rate of about
0.25 per cent of mortgages, compared with 3 per cent in the UK and up to 5 per
cent in the US.
“It’s surprising to us that there are so few
repossessions in the system at the moment, given the extent of the crisis,” Mr
Moran said. “Ultimately, it is the other people in the country who are paying
for these people to stay in their houses.”
Speaking in Frankfurt after the ECB’s governing
council meeting, Mr Draghi praised Ireland for its economic progress but said
the banking sector was a key concern.
“The Irish Government has undertaken very, very
significant progress, very significant results on several fronts... but further
action is needed, especially on the banking side, in the financial sector,” Mr
Ahead of her visit, Ms Lagarde told The Irish
Times she was concerned about a “relapse” in the global economy.
She also said she wanted to see where Ireland is
as it nears the end of its bailout programme.
“I want to understand where the country is –
which from the reports I read is a good position – with a programme that is more
than on track, with growth that has turned positive for the first time and
exceptionally so in comparison to other European and euro area countries,” she
“I want to see how we, with the authorities, can
best plan for finishing successfully the programme and to make sure that there
will not be a relapse.”
The latest Central Bank figures showed that
mortgage arrears continued to rise in the last quarter of last year, albeit at a
slower pace than in previous quarters. Almost 12 per cent of private residential
mortgages were three months behind in payments at the end of December, rising
from 11.5 per cent in September.
There was a 14 per cent rise in the number of
loans in arrears by more than 720 days, with some 23,500 mortgages falling into
Mr Moran said a “large range of different
options” were needed to solve the problem but noted that a workable system was
almost in place as the Department of Justice moves to close a legal loophole
preventing many repossessions and the new personal insolvency service prepares
He said it would be “typical” to see a greater
incidence of repossession, either through voluntary surrender of a home or
through the court system, where the economics of paying a mortgage no longer
Repossessions to rise
Mr Moran acknowledged that the rate of
repossessions could be expected to rise but added that “we are starting from a
base which is uncharacteristically low”.
“Maybe we will move to those levels,” said Mr
Moran, referring to repossession rates in the US and the UK. “We have had as
serious a crisis as everybody else.”
He said full information on borrowers in
difficulty was still unclear, even to the banks themselves, and needed to become
more accessible. Options such as deferring repayments on a portion of a loan, or
making interest-only repayments could be sufficient to address many problem
situations, he said.
AIB said in recent weeks that it would
restructure 2,000 loans each month, with other banks also promising greater
effort on the issue.
The Irish Times also reports that
international Women’s Day tends to concentrate the mind of the business
community on the issue of female representation, a process that naturally leads
us towards a raft of statistics. Inevitably, some of the numbers will be
encouraging, some considerably less so.
Today, on the less heartening side, new research
from accountancy firm Grant Thornton tells us that just 21 per cent of senior
business roles in the Republic are filled by women and, alas, this is worse than
the position four years ago.
The figure, which emerges from research across
100 companies, is flat on 2012. It compares to an international average of 24
per cent, which was three percentage points higher than a year ago. Globally,
we’re 36th out of 44 countries surveyed – hardly a cause for celebration.
Sinead Donovan, a Grant Thornton partner,
suggests that economic weakness may have left little room for career
progression, thus allowing for fewer opportunities for women.
Even with the stagnation however, only about a
third of Irish companies surveyed said they would support quotas with respect to
the boards of plcs. This matched the global result on this question, which is
likely to become a hotter topic the longer female participation at higher levels
in business in politics remains a talking point.
One crucial point in the research is that the
Republic is ranked lowest on flexible working in the EU, aside from Greece. This
translates into 53 per cent of companies offering family-friendly working
solutions, compared to an EU average of 74 per cent.
Donovan notes that flexible working is not the
only determining factor in growing female participation, with more mature
economies where it is embedded not necessarily seeing more women in senior
It is however a start along a road that continues
to stretch far ahead, since it can allow women with young children to remain in
the workforce even though they no longer wish, or find themselves unable, to
work full-time hours.
Figures from Eurostat show 26.2 per cent of Irish
employed women (across the public and private sectors) with one child work
part-time hours, with this rising to 48.3 per cent with three or more children.
The comparable figures for men are 7.9 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.
The Irish Examiner reports that
following the closure of one of Cork’s best known stores, concerns have been
raised that similar outlets will go out of business if shoppers don’t support
Fitzgerald Electrical Expert Store on Grand Parade
has closed after nearly 90 years in business.
Founded in 1924, the family-run shop prided itself on being a leading supplier
of electrical appliances in Cork and throughout the surrounding area.
The store was the first to show colour television in Cork in Mar 1970.
Senator Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael) said she was saddened by the closure.
“This is an extremely difficult time for the family who have a long and proud
tradition of trading in their prominent position on Grand Parade.”
Describing it as “a much treasured part of Cork’s retail community,” Ms Clune
said she had no doubt that there are many reasons for the decision to close, not
least the punishing economic climate Ireland’s retail sector is presently
“However, the continuing growth of online retail and large out-of-town
warehouse-type shopping has played a large part in the closure of many smaller
local businesses,” Ms Clune maintained.
She said most of these large units are not owned by indigenous companies, so
people should be considering where they make their purchases in these
“If you want local shops on your high street instead of big retailers then
people must buy locally and support businesses in their area. This will save
local jobs and preserve the strong retail presence in Cork city centre,” the
“An inviting retail atmosphere has positive knock-on effects with regard to
tourism and general footfall in restaurants and shops in the area. The city
council has invested and improved the appearance of the Grand Parade to make it
an attractive area.”
“There are issues on the Grand Parade, some buildings have been left idle and
the variety of shops is not diverse enough to encourage shoppers to visit there
instead of the big shopping centres located on the outskirts,” she added.
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