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Roundup-New investments in Seafood

Friday, May 25 08:24:37

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney is to announce a E15.5 million investment in seafood processing today which should create more than 140 jobs around the coastline. Mr Coveney will outline details of investments by 21 companies, supported by grants of E3.2 million under an EU co-funded seafood processing business scheme. The companies, based in six coastal counties from Donegal to Cork to Louth, aim to increase sales of "added value" seafood by almost E44 million over the next three years. Mr Coveney believes the investments demonstrate confidence in the sector as a high growth area of the economy, and show a willingness by Irish companies to meet the strong global demand for Irish seafood.

The investment scheme is administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, and follows a previous investment of E7 million by 21 companies last year. The State's food harvest strategy forecasts potential revenue growth of E300 million in seafood by 2020, increasing employment by 3,000.

The companies making investments and that have been approved for grants include: Sofrimar Ltd , Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford; Dunns Seafare Ltd, Jamestown Business Park, Finglas, Dublin; Atlantis Seafoods Wexford Ltd, Wexford; Shellfish De La Mer, Dinish Island, Castletownbere, Co Cork; Rockabill Shellfish Ltd, Balbriggan, Co Dublin; Sean Ward Fish Exports Ltd., Killybegs Co Donegal; Iasc Mara Teo.,Rossaveal, Co Galway; Earagail Eisc Teo Meenaneary, Carrick, Co Donegal; Charlie Vial (Fish Merchant) Ltd, Dunkineely, Co Donegal; and Premier Fish Ltd, Kinncaslagh, Co Donegal. The Irish Times

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A High Court judge in London found that Bank of Ireland's director of business banking Mark Cunningham was "hiding something" in evidence in a case won by the bank against its former head of business banking in Britain. Mr Justice Geoffrey Vos ruled this week in favour of the bank against Syed Jaffery, head of business banking in its British bank, and his associate Pritpal Gill, but the judge was critical of the testimony of several bank executives.

The judge said Mr Jaffery had breached his fiduciary duties and accepted bribes by being promised an interest and investing in UK property projects supported by millions of pounds in loans from the bank without its prior consent. Mr Jaffery, who was fired in May, 2011, had claimed that Mr Cunningham had told him in 2009 to look for another job and that he could further his own business opportunities in the meantime.

He had also claimed he and his associate, Mr Gill, had been victimised because he had "blown the whistle" by claiming that the bank's UK operations was "a sham bank" as it was being operated from Dublin in breach of the UK financial regulator's rules. Mr Cunningham claimed that the first he heard about Mr Jaffery being a whistleblower was in the run-up to a Daily Mail article in May 2011 which outlined Mr Jaffery's "sham bank" allegations.

Mr Jaffery's claims, which the bank has rejected, were raised by Lord Ahmed in a letter last year to UK chancellor George Osborne. In a judgment on Wednesday, the judge said he "did not find Mr Cunningham's evidence wholly satisfactory" and referred to the former political connections of the bank executive, who was an economic adviser to Fine Gael leader John Bruton in the 1990s. The Irish Times

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The State's financial watchdog has questioned the value of hiring private detectives to trawl for developers' hidden assets, and warned that NAMA faces "considerable challenges" making back the E32bn it spent buying toxic property loans from banks. The Comptroller and Auditor General yesterday published its second special report on NAMA. The C and AG is the state body responsible for budget discipline, and acts as auditor for the National Asset Management Agency.

In a lengthy report the C and AG backed many of the systems set up by NAMA to manage its sprawling property and loans empire. The report welcomed an innovative scheme whereby rents paid on properties owned by NAMA debtors go into bank accounts monitored by the bad bank, even without NAMA taking control of the properties affected. However, the C and AG says it believes NAMA paid significantly more for loans it acquired from six Irish banks than the assets are worth. NAMA has so far paid E26.4bn to buy loans that the C&AG says are worth only E21.4bn -- around one-fifth less than the price paid.

"Overpaying" for loans is allowed under the rules establishing NAMA, because price is based on "long-term economic value" rather than market rates. The 20pc gap, however, is a major challenge in terms of the agency's plan ultimately to break even, or return a profit. NAMA will ultimately pay E32bn to buy E72bn of loans. The final prices for the last E6bn of loans have yet to be set. The C and AG report highlights other challenges, including falling property prices and the reality that NAMA was structured in anticipation of an economic improvement that has failed to materialise. The Irish Independent

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Many Irish insurance firms are not prepared for new EU regulations in the sector, the Central Bank's director of insurance supervision warned yesterday. In a speech to the European Insurance Forum in Dublin, Fiona Muldoon said a number of the firms that her team supervises were not yet prepared for the Solvency II Directive, which is due to come into effect in 18 months' time.

Solvency II aims to make insurers in the European Union hold capital reserves in strict proportion to the risks they underwrite. Firms involved in riskier dealing will be required to hold larger reserves than more conservative peers. The directive has been beset by delays at EU level but Ms Muldoon warned firms should not use the excuse of policy delays in Brussels to slow down their preparations, which have included submitting models for their business under Solvency II versus its predecessor.

"We continue to be concerned about the pace of implementation in many of the firms we supervise. It is our judgment that many of you are not as prepared as you think. "We have the second largest number of internal models in the EU to evaluate, with 37 models currently in the pre-application process for approval. "In the majority of cases we have seen applicants struggle to deliver on time to their own initial plans. "There is an enormous execution and implementation challenge presented to these companies. We urge you and your groups to consider carefully the extent of the project management task and not to get caught out in your preparedness," she said. The Irish Independent