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News : International Last Updated: Aug 7, 2013 - 2:14 PM


Wednesday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - August 07, 2013
By Finfacts Team
Aug 7, 2013 - 10:34 AM

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Irish Independent

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is being tipped as a frontrunner to take over as EU chief when the powerful position comes up next year.

He is being linked with two top positions in the European Union in an analysis of the contenders by an influential Brussels-based opinion-shaper.

The Taoiseach is viewed as a frontrunner for the powerful post of European Council president, as he is seen as "capable but not a big name with an ego".

The European Council president chairs the meetings of EU leaders where all the major decisions are made.

The post is up for grabs in December 2014.

And Mr Kenny has an outside shot for European Commission president, the head of the EU cabinet, which becomes available next June.

HEALTH insurers have launched a string of special offers in a bid to capture customers as thousands of people are about to renew their policies.

The firms are offering half-price cover for children, discounts for adults and lower prices for those who buy policies online.

Insurers are also reacting to the fact that most people's private medical insurance cover comes up for renewal between now and the end of the year.

It comes as the insurers are due to launch new stripped-down polices to lure young families back into the market.

Last month, Aviva became the first to launch "no-frills" cover.

MOBILE phone calls are more expensive here than in most other countries in Europe.

New research has found that it costs five times more to make a call on a mobile in Ireland than it does in the cheapest country in the European Union.

Callers in this country are being hit with average charges of 10c a minute. This is dramatically more than is being paid by people living in Lithuania.

People in Lithuania pay on average less than two cent a minute to make domestic calls on their mobile phones.

The overall average in the EU is around 9c, according to new EU research.

Now vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes has warned mobile operators that new measures will be brought in to help create more equal charges across the continent.

IRISH government bonds are still vulnerable to a Greek-style restructuring, Capital Economics warned yesterday.

The country still hasn't fully regained the competitiveness lost inside the euro region and remains vulnerable to swings in the global economy, said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics. Debt levels, the housing market and a fragile banking sector may also hamper economic growth, Mr Loynes added in a note to investors.

"Worries about its economic outlook or contagion effects from other troubled peripheral economies could yet re-ignite market pressures and force the Irish Government to turn again to outside help," Mr Loynes said. "There is even a risk that Ireland will ultimately need to undergo a Greek-style debt restructuring, perhaps putting its future inside the currency union in jeopardy."

Irish Times

Retailer Marks & Spencer is to close four stores in the Republic with the loss of 180 jobs.

The stores that will close are M&S Mullingar, Co Westmeath; M&S Tallaght, Dublin 24; M&S Simply Food, Dun Laoghaire and M&S Simply Food Naas, Co Kildare.

Marks & Spencer is the latest high-profile franchise to curtail its presence here on the back of a fall-off in retail.

The company said the move to close the stores followed a strategic review of its Irish network.

On the upside, the company announced plans for a new flagship store in Limerick which would open by 2016, creating up to 250 new jobs.

Head of M&S Ireland Jonathan Glenister said M&S remained fully committed to its Irish business.

The US government has filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America that accuse the bank of investor fraud in its sale of $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities.

The lawsuits are the latest legal headache for the second-largest US bank, which has already agreed to pay in excess of $45 billion to settle disputes stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.

While most of the cases Bank of America has already confronted pertain to its acquisitions of brokerage Merrill Lynch and home lender Countrywide, the lawsuits filed pertain to mortgages the government said were originated, securitized and sold by Bank of America’s legacy businesses.

The residential mortgage-backed securities at issue, known as RMBS, were of a higher credit quality than subprime mortgage bonds and date to about January 2008, the government said, months after many Wall Street banks first reported billions of dollars in write-downs on their holdings of subprime mortgage securities.

Martin Wolfe of the FT says growth of output per head determines living standards. Innovation determines the growth of output per head. But what determines innovation?

Conventional economics offers abstract models; conventional wisdom insists the answer lies with private entrepreneurship. In her brilliant book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths, Mariana Mazzucato, a Sussex university professor of economics who specialises in science and technology, argues that the former is useless and the latter incomplete. Yes, innovation depends on bold entrepreneurship. But the entity that takes the boldest risks and achieves the biggest breakthroughs is not the private sector; it is the much-maligned state.

WHEN Sports Direct revealed last month that its store staff were to share £135 million in bonuses after a record year, the sportswear retailer was hailed as a model employer.

At last, ordinary workers were being allowed a taste of banker-style bonuses, with life-changing sums being paid out to those who served behind the counter. A shop assistant on £20,000 a year was in line for shares worth £70,000, with those on higher salaries receiving even more.

The headlines and editorials were unstinting in their praise; trebles all round for the Sports Direct spinmeisters.

Selective information is a dangerous game, however, and within weeks Sports Direct has gone from hero to zero with the revelation that 90 per cent of its staff – 20,000 part-time workers – are ineligible for the bonuses because they are employed on “zero hours” contracts.

Irish Examiner

The IMF’s executive board is split on the need for German chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to do more to boost the economy while it united in criticising the country’s trade surplus.

“Most directors supported the current policy stance for this year, although some saw scope for a more proactive stimulus, given the significant risks to the outlook,” the IMF said.

Germany should “sustain reform momentum to raise the economy’s growth potential and promote a more balanced economy”.

Europe’s largest economy will expand 0.3% this year, depressed by sluggish exports and “uncertainty” weighing on corporate investments, the IMF said in a report on its so-called Article IV consultations with Germany.

At 1.4%, growth will reach potential again next year, it said, after predicting growth of 1.3% in July.

Pressure on Merkel, who is seeking a third term in Sept 22 elections, to boost spending at home to foster recovery in cash-strapped eurozone countries has been growing. A year ago, the IMF did “not see the immediate need to have a contingency plan for a fiscal stimulus”.

The market for industrial- and manufacturing-appropriate property is expected to show a significant recovery this year, particularly in Dublin, following the second consecutive quarter of a decline in vacancy rates.

According to leading property agent Savills, the second three months of 2013 marked only the fourth quarter in which the vacancy rate for industrial units in Dublin has fallen since 2008, something which the company believes signals a marked upturn in the fortunes of this area of the property market.

A Savills spokesperson added that the last three months have seen the highest proportion of sales transactions since 2008, a sign that prospective buyers believe now is the right time to buy.

“The fundamentals of the industrial sector are beginning to improve, as the vacancy rate falls in the second quarter, take-up levels exceed 50,000sq m for two consecutive quarters and the number of sales increases to 41% of the total number of transactions,” said Savills Ireland’s industrial sector director, Gavin Butler.

Europe

Presseurop: The northernmost border post in the EU, the village of Nuorgam is the crossing point for workers that commute between Finland and Norway. However, the region, which is in the heart of Lapland, has to some extent been forgotten by the rest of Finland.

Hufvudstadsbladet, the Finnish daily says: Every day, Jocke Pikkarainen leaves his home in Nuorgam [Finland] to travel 25 kilometres north to his job in Tana Bru [in Norway], where he dons a red uniform and spends his days dealing with outpatients. Jocke Pikkarainen is from Kimito [southern Finland] and a former student in Turku. Having worked as an ambulance driver, last August he and his girlfriend decided to move as far away as he could without emigrating, to work on the northern bank of the river Tana, which marks the border between Finland and Norway. Both he and his girlfriend, who is currently on maternity leave, found work in the medical centre in Tana Bru.

Euro Topics: In the mass trial against the Turkish Ergenekon network, most of the 275 accused received prison sentences on Monday after being found guilty of preparing a coup. Punishment was meted out to the guilty and innocent indiscriminately, commentators criticise, accusing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of trying to intimidate his opponents.

The Turkish musician and author Zülfü Livaneli, who was once himself a political prisoner and lived in exile in the 1970s, describes the Ergenekon trial as highly unjust in the conservative Turkish daily Vatan: "A terrible shadow hovers over this decision, because innocent authors, generals and politicians were judged on the basis of testimony by secret witnesses whose accusations could not be proved. If they had only punished the butchers we'd have applauded until our hands bled. But that's not how it was. ... Justice was not served, because as well as the guilty, innocent people were also punished. Now all hopes rest with the judges of the appeal court. I hope that justice will be done there."

The left-liberal German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung sees correlations between the Ergenekon trial and the Gezi protests: "A ban on torture, freedom of expression, the scrapping of the death penalty, the recognition of Kurdish culture, limiting the power of the military, a new course in foreign policy - all this was on the agenda of Erdoğan's AKP. … 'After Gezi', the head of government claims, Turkey suddenly has many new enemies. And once again the enemies are in the country. They are predominantly young, well educated and until now for the most part apolitical, and they long for all the freedoms Erdoğan himself once promised them. Now these young people are being declared 'terrorists' by the government. … So we see the standards slipping: those who equate the terror of the 'deep state' on which a Turkish court in Silivri pronounced sentence on Monday with the predominantly harmless demonstrators don't feel strong, but weak."

A dispute between Spain and the UK over fishing grounds off the coast of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar has escalated in the last few days. Spanish authorities upped the controls at border crossings between Gibraltar and Spain, forcing people to queue up for hours, in a retaliatory measure after Gibraltar boats started dumping of blocks of concrete into the sea, which was interpreted by Spain as a bid to block Spanish fishing boats. The left-liberal Spanish daily El País sees Spain's bullying tactics as counterproductive: "Spain must defend its interests, but without endangering its good relations with Britain, which are as important to it right now as regaining sovereignty over Gibraltar. And to make progress on the path to this goal we must also forge good relations with the 29,000 inhabitants of the British colony. Because as the debate on this problem at the United Nations has shown, in the end any decision must be approved by its inhabitants."

Around 3,000 philosophers from all over the world arrived in Athens on Sunday for the 23rd World Congress of Philosophy. The left-liberal Greek daily Efimerida ton Syntakton complains that philosophers are too silent in times of crisis: "That's the most convincing proof of the academic entrenchment of philosophy and the distortion it is subjected to in a system that serves the interests of pragmatism, utilitarianism and ultimately cynicism. ... After adjusting for so long to the needs of a lucrative model of research and teaching, philosophy has morphed into an autistic, self-serving discipline. It's no coincidence that the social stereotype of the philosopher is that of someone who lives in his own world. More a drop-out than a militant intellectual who asks questions in the name of society and stands up to the powers that be."

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