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News : Irish Last Updated: Mar 12, 2013 - 8:09 AM


Tuesday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - March 12, 2013
By Finfacts Team
Mar 12, 2013 - 8:04 AM

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The Irish Independent reports that Ryanair has placed an $18bn (€14bn) order with Boeing to buy up to 200 aircraft, the newspaper has learned.

The mammoth order – due to be confirmed by US President Barack Obama and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the White House next week – is the single biggest aircraft purchase ever agreed by Ryanair. It's also one of the biggest orders ever placed with Seattle-based manufacturer Boeing.

It means Ryanair has all but thrown in the towel in its seven-year battle to buy Aer Lingus, and will now focus once more on its own long-term expansions efforts. A spokesman for the airline declined to comment.

The EU blocked Ryanair's third Aer Lingus takeover attempt two weeks ago.

The order will be used to replace some existing aircraft in Ryanair's fleet, but it means the carrier will be in a position to extend its footprint to even more corners of Europe and outside the region.

Ryanair is on target to carry 80 million passengers in the year to the end of this month, and is in talks with as many as 60 airports about either adding services or flying to them for the first time.

Airports

It has even been talking to airports in Israel. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said in January that the airline was in the "fairly early stages of talks" with Boeing in an effort to reach an agreement on pricing for new jets. He's looking for orders to be delivered between 2015 and 2017.

That will help Ryanair boost its annual passenger figures to 120 million. He said Ryanair would only place an order "when the price is right". Ryanair's fleet currently comprises 305 Boeing 737-800 aircraft – the airline is the world's largest operator of that type.

The 737-800 model currently has an $89.1m (€68.5m) list price, according to the aircraft manufacturer. Last December, Ryanair received the final two aircraft of a historical order it had with Boeing.

It's not clear at this stage whether Ryanair has plumped for the 737-800 or Boeing's new 'Max' variation.

The new agreement also buries the hatchet in what was effectively a three-year stalemate between Ryanair and Boeing.

The pair fell out in 2009 as Ryanair pulled a planned order for up to 200 aircraft that had a $14bn list price (€9.8bn at the time). Mr O'Leary described the collapse of that deal as "remarkable" given that the two aviation firms had already agreed pricing for the jets. Boeing wanted to alter some conditions Ryanair enjoyed, related to warranties, for instance.

Mr O'Leary labelled Boeing executives as a "bunch of idiots" and "numpties" for letting the contract fall through. He also warned at the time that Boeing, whose corporate HQ is in Chicago, would have to come back with a "significant" discount for any subsequent deal to be done.

Ryanair has always pushed for tough terms with Boeing. In early 2002, soon after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Ryanair placed an order for 100 aircraft with Boeing, taking advantage of depressed pricing.

Those aircraft had a $9.1bn list price at the time, but the manufacturer gave Ryanair a steep discount to secure the order.

The Irish Independent also reports that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has put further pressure on the European Union for some of the debts which were sustained by taxpayers as a result of the banking crisis, to be restructured.

Speaking in London this morning, where he is on a whirlwind trip in advance of St Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach said the EU needs to take responsibility for decisions made following the crash in 2008.

He also said Irish banks need to “reskill” so that they can lend prudently and cut down on costs to return to private ownership.

“The principle that there can be no shared European taxpayer responsibility for banks without shared control and supervision is reasonable,” Mr Kenny told an audience in the City of London.

“But the corollary must also be true; where the policy for dealing with bank failures was determined at European – and not national – level, so too must the burden of the legacy costs of those policies.”

Mr Kenny is making a series of addresses throughout the day before meeting with British prime minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing street this evening.

He said he supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

“We see the British relationship with the EU as being a two way relationship - Britain benefits from its membership of the EU, and the EU is better off with Britain as a leading member making a valued contribution,” he said.

The Irish Times reports that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has issued a warning to the banks to co-operate with a new Government plan to settle the personal debt crisis, saying they have no reason not to.

The initiative, to be unveiled tomorrow, marks a new effort to tackle tens of thousands of mortgage arrears. The plan includes measures to facilitate repossession as a last resort, with the focus on the owners of investment properties who are in default.

Revenue website

It comes amid criticism of a new Revenue website setting out property valuations as the tax authority contacts 1.66 million homeowners with estimates of their property tax liability. Revenue has reported some 207,000 “hits” on the site on Sunday after it went live but has no figure for the number of individual unique users who logged on.

Mr Noonan said the mortgage arrears crisis has festered for too long and that the Government was disappointed it was not settled earlier.

“This has to be dealt with in the interest of the people who are in debt because they can’t manage their full mortgage repayments, but also in the interest of the country,” he said in Limerick. “You can’t have 100,000 families in a small country not participating in the growth of the economy and they can’t participate if they are burdened with debt.”

Although the banks have claimed they lacked the tools to confront the problem, Mr Noonan said that was no longer the case.

“The banks themselves lacked staff who could inter-relate with people who had impaired mortgages but they have trained up significant numbers of staff now and they have the menu of solutions, so there is no particular reasons why they wouldn’t proceed and they are committed now to proceed and we will have details of the arrangements they have made with the Central Bank going on later this week.”

Mr Noonan backed Department of Finance secretary general John Moran, whose remarks last week on repossessions went down badly with some Cabinet members.

Buy-to-let

He said the mortgage system would collapse without the threat of repossession and said landlords collecting rent on buy-to-let properties should pay the interest on their mortgages.

“The policy is in terms of personal mortgages on family homes is that repossession would be a last resort but you have to have repossession as part of the set of solutions because many of us have mortgages and we know the basis of it. You get a loan and the deeds of the house are taken by the bank and if the deeds are no use and they can never get possessions of the property, why would you pay?” Mr Noonan said.

The Irish Times also reports that large pension payments to former taoisigh should be cut in line with public sector pension reductions but the Government has been legally advised to take proportionate action to reduce them, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton has said.

The Government understood the public anger over the pension payments to former taoisigh, said Mr Bruton, and has “sought to do everything possible within legal advice to deal with this”.

Speaking in Washington, the Minister – whose brother John will receive a reduced annual pension of ¤134,728 following a new plan to cut public pensions by 5 per cent – said that the reductions were in line with cuts being imposed on the pensions of serving politicians.

“Clearly these are construed as property rights so the Government is under an obligation to be proportionate in its action,”he added.

He was responding to a report in yesterday’s Irish Times , which revealed that the pensions paid to former taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern rank among the highest in Europe.

Mr Cowen and Mr Ahern each receive annual pensions of ¤150,163 but this will drop to ¤142,655 under the plan to reduce public sector pensions.

These compare with £70,000 (¤80,000) paid to former British prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Former leaders in Germany, Spain and Greece are also paid substantially less than their Irish counterparts.

Mr Bruton said that the Government was eager to reduce the pensions of former political leader and other public sector pensions.

“There is a real appetite to do that and make sure that the burden of adjustment is fairly spread and in particular borne by those who are on substantial pensions from the public service,” he said.

“There is an appetite to do that but we also realise that there are legal constraints of proportionality that have to be observed.”

The Irish Examiner reports that the State paid €30m last year relating to the lease of 82 Nama-related properties.

In a written Dáil response to Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has confirmed: “Nama advises that 48 properties are located in Dublin and the neighbouring counties of Wicklow, Kildare and Meath; these account for 76% of total rental income.

“There are 24 properties located in counties Limerick, Cork and Galway and these account for a further 21% of total income. The residual properties are located throughout the rest of Ireland and account for 3% of rental income.”

Mr Tóibín asked Mr Noonan on the need to address the upward only rent clauses on properties.

Mr Noonan replied: “Nama has no legal role in relation to the contracts between property owners/appointed insolvency practitioners and third parties.

“Any discussion on rent reviews is a matter for the property owner/appointed insolvency practitioner and the tenant, and these discussions will be dealt with on a commercial basis and in accordance with the Nama guidelines. Nama, in its role as secured lender, is agreeing rent abatements through its debtors and insolvency practitioners to support small businesses around the country that are struggling to survive because of the current economic environment.”

He said that “Nama’s mandate is to achieve the best possible return for the taxpayer from the management and sale of its acquired bank assets and that the Nama board has a mandate to independently frame its decisions in this context.

“Given the independence afforded to Nama by the Nama Act, I have no role as minister for finance in relation to strategies applied by Nama to maximise income generation from individual assets securing its loans and to ensure that interest and principal on the debt are repaid by a debtor.”

However, Mr Tóibín said yesterday in order to save the taxpayer money, “as a first step, the Government needs to direct Nama to remove the upward only rent clauses and agree a market value rent for all tenants.

“Secondly the Government needs to examine fully each of these leases to establish if it would be more cost effective to transfer the property from Nama to the Government body concerned to reduce the cost to the public purse.

“Without these steps, the Government will continue to artificially inflate commercial property values and leave the taxpayer on the hook for years to come.”

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