Monday, September 03 08:27:59
Businesses are facing an estimated 5 per cent to 7 per cent hike in natural gas costs after the State's energy regulator approved increases in network charges at the weekend. On Friday, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) approved a series of increases for use of the natural gas transmission and distribution networks, which will come into effect in October. According to independent natural gas and electricity supply company Vayu, the increases could result in a rise of 5 per cent to 7 per cent in the prices that businesses pay for natural gas. The news comes ahead of an announcement on domestic natural gas charges, which is due later today. Bord Gais Energy has sought a 7.54 per cent increase, but it is not known if the regulator will approve this.
Bord Gais Networks operates the Republic's transmission and distribution systems, which transport natural gas around the State. The prices that the company charges are regulated and subject to reviews by the CER, which decides on the tariffs based on submissions from Bord Gais Networks, customers and other interested parties.
The increases approved by the regulator cover the use of the transmission system, which is the network's backbone, and the distribution system, which delivers gas to customers. Vayu's head of regulation Bryan Hennessy predicted that large industries, such as pharmaceutical manufacturers and medium-sized businesses, would be most affected. "Energy is the biggest cost after employees and raw materials," Mr Hennessy said.
He added that Vayu was aware high energy costs had been a factor in some multinational investors pulling out of the Republic, although he said he could not give specific examples of this for confidentiality reasons. The Irish Times
Edun Apparal, the ethical clothing company owned by Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, made a loss of $8.5 million (E6.8 million) last year. Accounts just filed for the year ended December 2011 show the company, which is 49 per cent owned by the world's largest luxury goods group LVMH, had net liabilities of $29 million (E23 million) at year-end.
Separately, accounts for UFIP (Ireland) - the Irish-registered firm through which LVMH holds its interest in Edun - show LVMH wrote down its $8.5 million investment in the clothing company by $7 million in 2010. In 2009, the Paris-headquartered group invested $8.5 million in Edun Apparel, which was founded in 2005.
It represented the first foray into ethical fashion by the company, which owns some of the world's top luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Moet Chandon, Veuve Clicquot champagne and designer brand Donna Karan. Edun designs, manufactures and sells mainly organic cotton clothes, sourcing its product primarily from Africa. Its mission is to bring about "positive change through its trading relationship with Africa," according to its website.
Edun's 2011 accounts show that the company had a shareholders' deficit of $29.2 million at the end of December 2011, up from $20.6 million the previous year. It also had a 100 per cent shareholding in subsidiary company Edun Americas. Edun is financed by way of shareholders' loans, the accounts state, which totalled $36.2 million at year-end, up from $24.4 million the previous year. The Irish Times
A lot of strange data about house prices has been coming our way in recent months. The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggest the price of houses and apartments in the capital is falling again, while house prices outside Dublin are rising. That would be really big news if we could trust the CSO figures to give us a really clear picture of the housing market. Unfortunately, we can't.
To be fair to the CSO, its relatively new series on house prices comes with several caveats about methodology. The most serious problem is that the CSO figures don't include cash purchases, so that excludes around a third of the market, according to some auctioneers. The CSO's figures don't seem to have captured the full extent of the crash. While I don't have much time for auctioneers who are practiced in all the arts of deception, I tend to agree with their estimates of a decline closer to 65pc. The CSO pegs the fall at 56pc. So few houses are changing hands these days that small anomalies can make a big difference.
There was a time when cash purchases didn't matter. There was a time when there were so many transactions that a few castles selling for millions would not distort the figures a jot. Those times are over. In the UK there are so many different house price gauges that a new report seems to come out every second day. The troubling thing is that these various gauges tell different stories. The Irish Independent
Allowing people to access additional voluntary contribution (AVC) pension funds could result in a boost to the Exchequer of up to E1.8bn, employers' group IBEC claimed last night. The lobby group said such a move would give an immediate tax windfall to the State of E600m, as the drawdown would be taxed. This would rise to E1.24bn from additional spending in the economy and provide an overall domestic economic stimulus worth E1.8bn.
IBEC called on the Government to change pension rules to facilitate the drawdown and said such initiatives had worked well in Denmark and Iceland. IBEC economist Fergal O'Brien said: "Despite the pressure on the public finance, there are things that can be done to change consumer behaviour and support demand in the economy. "During the boom years, some individuals invested in personal pension funds and AVCs but have now seen their incomes fall significantly."
The economist said that allowing early release of a portion of pension funds would enable such individuals to offset lost income with their savings, which are locked away, while at the same time providing a wider economic benefit. He said AVC pensions were worth about E4bn and further personal pension schemes are valued at about E15bn.
If just half of AVC account holders and a quarter of those with personal pensions were to opt for early drawdown, the total value would be E3bn. The Irish Independent
Irish Continental boss Eamonn Rothwell made a E1.2m paper profit by exercising and selling off stock options last week, after the company announced plans for a bumper share buy-back. Mr Rothwell exercised and sold 100,000 options last week. Finance chief Gary O'Dea made a E256,000 paper profit by cashing in 37,500 options, with marketing chief Tony Kelly also making a E171,000 paper profit from options trading.
Last week, ICG saw its biggest one-day share price jump for more than three years as it announced that it would buy back as many as 111.5 million shares in the company at E18.50 per share. This major share buy-back makes the decision by One51 to offload its 12.3pc stake in the company back in June look even more ill-timed. The investment company sold its 3.1 million shares when ICG was trading at around E14.92 per share, missing out on up to E11m from the share price rise. One51 had bought into the ferry company during a boomtime takeover battle, which turned sour.