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Syndicated News Archives - Page 9 of 258 - Ansell Ryan Young

ESB plots massive Scottish windfarm

The ESB has unveiled plans for a massive 91 megawatt windfarm in Scotland.

The State-owned electricity business has formed a partnership with wind developer Coriolis Energy and the companies are working on a number of projects in that country.

Renewables trade publication ‘ReNews’ said the ESB has kicked off a scoping process for the farm, with plans for 19 turbines that are 175m tall.

The commercial semi-State ESB is trying to add more renewables into its fuel mix and said it “sees significant opportunity to grow its onshore wind business in Scotland.

“The current ESB strategy has identified the need to continue to grow a generation business of scale in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK electricity markets so it can compete,” the ESB said.

“Recognising the long-term imperative to decarbonise society, ESB is investing to reduce the carbon intensity of its power generation plant and increase the role of renewable energy.”

The company is also looking to develop projects in solar, waste-to-energy, biomass and offshore wind among other areas.

It recently took a stake in an offshore wind farm off the coast of Suffolk in the east of Britain.

That came after the company last year put out a tender looking for “the provision of renewable energy marine services related to offshore wind farms”.

It said it had a pipeline with multiple projects being looked at.

It has recently appointed a new renewables business development team to work in the UK, with a particular focus on Scotland, to complement its ambitions to grow renewables in Ireland.

The wind sector is seeing a lot of activity, and two large Irish windfarm portfolios have recently been put on the market by their owners.

AMP Capital, the co-manager of the State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund (IIF), has hired Evercore to oversee the sale of 110 megawatts of windfarms north and south of the Border.

Separately, investment giant BlackRock has put up a portfolio of European windfarms and solar parks.

Windfarms have proved attractive to long-term investors like pension funds in recent times, as they are seen as offering decent returns over a long period of time.

The ESB said it “remains confident” that “onshore wind is one of the lowest cost renewable generation types available on these islands to meet the challenge of reducing the impact of climate change”.

One megawatt of wind energy is estimated to be enough to power around 600 homes, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association.

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Irish investors tender for IPL stock worth €22m

Irish shareholders in IPL Plastics have tendered for shares worth up to CAD$33.4m (€21.9m) in a buyback ahead of its Canadian listing later this month.

The company, formerly known as One51, announced in April that the listing plan would include a share buy-back of up to CAD$50m, which would give investors a clear exit route.

Irish investors face a dilution of their shareholding in the company from 57pc to around 45pc, while the company’s Canadian investors – Caisse de depot et placement de Quebec, and Fonds de Solidarite des travailleurs du Quebec – will see their stakes watered down by around 34pc from 43pc.

Under the buy-back arrangement, the original shareholders in the company, including several co-ops, have the option of selling their shares back to IPL at the time of the IPO or trading out within six months via a grey market in Dublin.

Underwriters insisted on structural lock-in for six months to ensure stability for the shareprice.

Investors can, of course, hold on to their stock after the six-month period.

According to the IPL Plastics documents, more than 2,085,678 Class B common shares (the equivalent of five shares at present) have been tendered under the buy-back option “representing a total redemption price of between CAD$28,156,653 and CAD$33,370,848”. This represents less than 5pc of shareholders.

Pricing details will be released in the week beginning June 18.

The updated prospectus showed that in the first quarter, revenue rose to CAD $148m from CAD$112.5m in the same period 2017. Adjusted earnings before interest and tax fell by 16.8pc to CAD$6.8m in the first quarter.

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Greencore to appoint US chief executive by year end

Greencore, the Dublin-based food group and the world’s largest sandwich maker, is searching for a new chief executive for its US operations as speculation persists about potential takeover interest in the company.

Sources said Greencore will announce the appointment before the end of the year.

News of the latest shake-up comes amid rumours the group has veered into the crosshairs of a private equity suitor.

It is understood Greencore has not fielded any takeover discussions or interest from third parties since late 2011, when the New York buyout firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice came knocking.

But speculation that private equity firms continue to circle flared up again last week across trading desks in London and Dublin, despite the share price rebound since a shock profit warning in March wiped a third off the group’s value.

At that time, Greencore’s chief executive Patrick Coveney announced he would spend half his time across the Atlantic as he sought to restore investor confidence and bolster business by adopting a more hands-on approach to the problem-plagued US division.

Chuck Metzger, chief operating officer of the unit, now holds responsibility for its day-to-day management.

It is not clear whether Mr Metzger is also in the running for the CEO appointment.

According to sources, Mr Coveney’s deeper involvement in the US arm was intended as a temporary measure and a replacement CEO to the US arm is expected to be unveiled within the next six months.

The looming top-tier changes come as investor sentiment in the stock continues to rally after the half-year results in May recorded a 22.6pc jump in revenue to £1.24bn (€1.41bn) – beating market forecasts. While the group chalked up an operating loss of £4.4m (€5.01m), the shares have climbed steadily over the past month, reversing the downward spiral.

The sharp improvement has prompted some to question why a suitor would table an offer now when the chance to swoop on the group at its weakest has passed.

Yet Greencore continues to draw a heavy contingent of short-sellers, who typically borrow stock in a company on the expectation it will fall in value.

In March the short interest climbed to almost 16pc. It has since retreated to 12pc but the group remains one of the most heavily shorted stocks on the FTSE 250 index.

Few in the market doubt private equity companies were crunching the numbers on Greencore earlier this year. Investor sources argue an opportunist may see value in breaking up the company, hiving off its profitable UK arm from the troubled US division.

Low cash generation also continues to weigh on Greencore’s value although many analysts predict this will grow over the next few years as the Peacock acquisition fuels profits.

The group snapped up the food manufacturing business, which caters to branded consumer behemoths like Tyson Foods, Kraft Heinz, Dole and Kellogg’s, for $747.5m (€635m) at the end of 2016, and investors backed the move with a £439.4m (€500.5m) rights issue. But the group has suffered a string of setbacks in its legacy business in the US as new retail ventures failed to gain much traction and factories were left under-utilised.

Greencore has picked up positive momentum recently and has recalibrated its US strategy. Yet Brexit poses considerable cost challenges while a potential supermarket consolidation in the UK threatens to undermine margins.

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Less than a third of people renting their home do it by choice

The scale of the rental trap facing hard-pressed families is revealed in a new report showing that the vast majority of people do not wish to be tenants.

Fewer than a third of tenants rent their homes by choice, according to Threshold’s report, which was released ahead of an event to mark the national housing charity’s 40th anniversary.

The remaining 71pc rent in the private sector because they cannot get social housing, nor can they afford a mortgage to buy a property of their own.

The vast majority (96pc) of tenants found it either difficult or extremely difficult to find rental accommodation.

The huge financial burden facing families is also outlined, as almost half of tenants spend about a third of their take-home pay on rent. Some 14pc say they spend more than half.

Nearly a third (31pc) of tenants had experienced a rent rise in the previous 12 months, with 65pc of those saying the rent had been increased in excess of the 4pc Rent Pressure Zone cap.

Despite their desire to get out of renting, some 70pc of tenants have been renting for five years or longer and 44pc still expect to be renting in five years’ time.

Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty said: “It is extremely worrying, but not surprising, that almost all of those surveyed said they had difficulty in finding rental accommodation.

“Nearly half of those surveyed were working, but the fact that 14pc of tenants are spending more than half of their take-home pay on rent shows that renting is becoming out of reach for many people.”

Threshold’s chair, Dr Aideen Hayden, said: “A home is not just where you live, it is a place of sanctuary, offering protection from the stresses and strains of daily living. The current insecurity for tenants in the private rented sector means that they can’t look ahead and plan, they can’t put down roots.
“For families living in the private rental sector, worrying about a possible eviction and move at short notice plays havoc with children’s lives and their school attendance.”

Threshold’s tenant sentiment survey involved more than 300 tenants who had used its services nationally. It was carried out in April.

Threshold is marking its 40th anniversary with a series of events. The first, at the Mansion House this evening, will be addressed by UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Leilani Farha and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

Mr Murphy said: “Ireland is experiencing a housing shortage and a homeless crisis and tackling this is the Government’s number one priority.

“Threshold’s homelessness-prevention work is central to this aim. We have developed a strategy to improve the private rented sector. Rebuilding Ireland is working and we will continue to identify means by which to address this issue.”

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Yahoo escapes Irish fine in biggest ever email breach

Yahoo has escaped a fine from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner after the watchdog found against it for a giant email data breach that affected 500 million Yahoo email users.

Instead, the tech giant has been ordered to change its data security and processing systems, on pain of court enforcement.

The breach occurred in 2014 and was reported to the office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) in September 2016, when Yahoo says it became aware of it. Some 39 million EU citizens were affected by the email breach, with 500 million affected overall.

The DPC’s office said it will issue no fine or other punitive measure, because the events took place before the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force last month.

If the same event occurred now, a company found to be in breach would face fines of up to €20m or 4pc of global turnover under new penalties introduced by the GDPR. Yahoo’s European headquarters are in Dublin’s Point Village in the docklands.

“The DPC has notified Yahoo that it requires it to take specified and mandatory actions within defined time periods,” said a spokesman for the DPC.

“The DPC will be closely supervising Yahoo’s timely compliance with these required actions.”

According to the DPC, the breach involved the unauthorised copying and taking, “by one or more third parties”, of material contained in approximately 500 million user accounts from Yahoo in 2014. It is the largest breach which has been investigated by the DPC, the spokesman said.

The DPC added that a separate breach dating back to 2013 was not investigated because, at the time the breach occurred, “Yahoo EMEA was not a data controller within the meaning of the Data Protection Acts and therefore Yahoo EMEA was not subject to the jurisdiction of the DPC”.

Nevertheless, the company fell short of data protection law, according to the regulator.
“Yahoo’s oversight of the data processing operations performed by its data processor did not meet the standard required by EU data protection law and as given effect or further effect in Irish law,” according to the watchdog’s assessment of the tech company’s behaviour.

“Yahoo relied on global policies which defined the appropriate technical security and organisational measures implemented by Yahoo. Those policies did not adequately take into account Yahoo’s obligations under data protection law. Yahoo did not take sufficient reasonable steps to ensure that the data processor it engaged complied with appropriate technical security and organisational measures as required by data protection law.”

The DPC went on to say it has ordered Yahoo to take “specified and mandatory actions to bring its data processing into compliance with EU data protection law”. These actions include that Yahoo “should ensure that all data protection policies which it uses and implements take account of the applicable data protection law and that such policies are reviewed and updated at defined regular intervals”.

The DPC also directed Yahoo “to update its data processing contracts and procedures associated with such contracts to comply with data protection law”. The move comes as companies try to integrate new data control requirements contained in the GDPR.

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Pensioners can unlock cash early, Revenue announces

Thousands of pensioners will get an early opportunity to unlock money in retirement funds they have been unable to access up to now.

Car dealers and travel agents are expected to be the big winners after rules restricting access to a certain type of pension fund were loosened.

The move comes after Revenue agreed that thousands of pensioners will be able to unlock money in what are known as approved minimum retirement funds (AMRFs).

Previously pensioners who had an AMRF could not access their funds before they were 75, unless they had a pension or annuity of €12,700 a year.

This created problems for those who were on the full State pension but with no other income.

With the full State pension at €12,651 per annum, many pensioners were finding themselves with funds locked in an account just because they were €49 a year short of a pension income.

It is thought that around 25,000 people have AMRFs.

Actuary Tony Gilhawley of Technical Guidance said a new Revenue update now allows the State pension Christmas bonus to be taken into account against the €12,700 pension income needed to unlock funds.

He said AMRF holders currently on the maximum rate of State pension should be able to access their funds in full in December this year after they receive the Christmas bonus on their State pension.

Minister for State Jim Daly has claimed credit for the policy shift. He said the move will unlock hundreds of thousands of euro for pensioners.
“The previous situation represented a glaring anomaly in the system that was preventing healthy and fit pensioners that may want to access their funds to do some travel or buy a new car,” the minister said.

Mr Gilhawley said this meant car dealers and travel agents would likely be the big winners as some pensioners with unlocked AMRFs may splash out in December.

“I think Trailfinders and car dealers will be the main beneficiaries of the Revenue change,” he said.

The actuary said many pensioners would be able to use their AMRF funds to maximise their benefits in the coming years.

“Retirees who have little or no other income other than the State pension may be able to empty their AMRF completely tax free over a few years, using the income tax exemption relief,” he said.

He explained that people pay no income tax over age 65 if their total income is less than €36,000 (married couple) or €18,000 (single person).

Mr Gilhawley gave an example of a married couple with one of them receiving the maximum State pension and the other getting the maximum qualified adult pension.

This couple may be able to withdraw about €11,000 tax free from their AMRF in December this year, using the income tax exemption relief for the over 65s.

He said that over a period of years, the retiree may be able to completely withdraw their current AMRF tax free. They could withdraw it faster but might pay some tax on the withdrawals.

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Europe seeks US blessing to maintain its trade with Iran

Three European countries and the European Union are seeking exemptions from US sanctions on Iran in a sign that the bloc’s bid to hold the landmark nuclear deal together may be in trouble.

Ireland could potentially benefit, if it means banks and businesses here can do business in Iran despite a US trade embargo.

“As allies, we expect that the US will refrain from taking action to harm Europe’s security interests,” the three countries and the EU said in a letter to the Trump administration.

They argued that the agreement with Iran remains the best way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and that the 2015 accord can only survive if Tehran receives economic benefits in return.

“US secondary sanctions could prevent the EU from continuing meaningful sanctions relief to Iran,” they said.

The US said on May 8 that it was pulling out of the nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and would start reimposing sanctions on Iran. US officials have warned European companies to wind down their Iranian operations.

The letter was sent by France, Germany, Britain, and the EU, signatories of the landmark 2015 accord where Iran agreed to strict limits and inspections on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The June 4 letter was sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and was posted on the Twitter account of French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

The letter asks for public confirmation that businesses such as pharmaceuticals and healthcare are exempt from secondary sanctions, and asks the US to grant exemptions for “key sectors” such as energy, automobiles, civil aviation, and infrastructure.

It also asks for exemptions to “maintain banking channels and financing channel with Iran”.

“As close allies we expect that the extraterritorial effects of US secondary sanctions will not be enforced on EU entities and individuals, and that the US will thus respect our political decision and the good faith of economic operators within EU legal territory,” the letter said.

Even before the US pulled out of the JCPOA, many European companies faced problems financing their Iranian investments because major banks didn’t want to risk US ire by working in Iran. (Bloomberg)

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Founder of Kerry-based tech firm embarks on US adventure with new Boston office

The founder of a Kerry-based tech firm is relocating to Boston – with his family – in a bid to expand the company’s US customer base.

John ‘Ogie’ Sheehy founded ViClarity in 2008, a period of instability where a tool to help manage new regulatory and governance policies was an innovative, and attractive, product.

With a background working in a number of US corporate multinationals, including HP, IBM and Dell, Mr Sheehy said it was a move back home from Dublin that helped him realise the opportunity,

“I was commuting up and down to Dell at the time, and I began to meet some Kerry-based entrepreneurs, even getting involved in a TY programme to help mentor students in the art of running a business,” he told the Irish Independent.

“I met a lot of very inspirational people who were globally successful.

“And by the end of 2008 I felt there was an opportunity to create a software solution focusing on compliance that could help businesses to manage compliance in a cost-effective and simple way,” he said.

Mr Sheehy took part in a nine-month Enterprise Ireland programme that helped him develop his concept and the ViClarity business.

Having already established a strong network in the south west, finding his first customer happened quite quickly.
I reached back out to people asking for validation about the business concept and met a guy who had worked in Dell.

“He was working with a nursing home group in Limerick and the big issue for them was around HIQA compliance, something I wasn’t familiar with at the time.

That particular organisation looked at the basic version of the software that I had and said, if you can manage HIQA compliance, we’ll be your first customer,” he said.

Fast forward 10 years, ViClarity’s team of nine has a strong foothold across two sectors in Ireland and the UK – in healthcare and financial services compliance.

Their scalable, flexible platform allows the client to track and manage all the necessary policies to comply with in one system, allowing the creation of transparent bespoke reports to present to auditors.

With credit unions, community banks, investment managers and the insurance sector looking for a way to decipher and ensure compliance with new regulations post-crash, Mr Sheehy said that this created a good marketing opportunity for the firm.

“We realised it was just a different set of regulations to input into the platform and we expanded in that market very quickly.

“We went from having two companies to 72 at peak time.”

A decade on, Mr Sheehy said not only has the software offering matured – responding to market and regulator feedback – but so too has clarity around market focus, and what is required to expand internationally.

Following a soft introduction to the US market, through a chance encounter with a customer at a trade show in Denver, the company’s access to that region grew in true Irish style.

“We met a guy who knew a guy in Chicago who was getting married to an Irish girl.

“It turns out he worked with a network of credit unions there, and his company had a big customer base, so he acted as our sales agent on the ground,” he said.

Their efforts yielded “moderate success” and Mr Sheehy knew a larger leap needed to be taken for US business to really take off.

Winning a place on the Bridge to MassChallenge Cork accelerator competition gave ViClarity that window.

“The winning firms were flown to Boston to understand the market and be coached in company expansion.

“When I landed, I immediately realised the opportunity of being on the ground, the concentration of potential customer base for healthcare, the second biggest in the US for fund management.

“The icing on the cake is the Irish community.

“You’d almost meet your mother.”

Mr Sheehy, his wife and two teenage children fly to Boston next week, with an aim to have a team of two set up in a Boston office by summer’s end.

His intention is to establish sales, pre-sales, customer support, account management and eventually business analysts at the Boston office.

“Here is where the mothership is though – and where the intellectual property is.

“The tech side remains here and this expansion is a great opportunity for the future growth of our Irish team,” he said.

House of Fraser to close over of half its stores

Retail chain House of Fraser is to shut over half of its stores impacting around 6,000 jobs.

The closures are part of a proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which will require approval from creditors who will make their decision on June 22.

Currently, the troubled group operates 59 leased stores across the UK and Ireland, however the group’s Irish stores will not be affected by the closures, with its store in Dundrum excluded from the CVA as it is a separate legal entity.

In a statement today the company said that its property portfolio is “unstainable in its current form.”

Following what has been described as a “comprehensive review” of the group’s entire property portfolio, the directors of House of Fraser have identified 31 stores for closure, which will reduce the total store estate to 28 stores.

Commenting on the closures, Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said that the retail industry is undergoing “fundamental change” and that the group urgently needs to adapt to the fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.

“Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.”

“So whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive.”

It is expected that those stores scheduled for closure will remain open until early in 2019, and the company said that those impacted by the announcement have already been informed.

In preliminary results for Financial Year 2017 House of Fraser reported an operating profit of £19.8m, down from £31.8m the previous year.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation fell massively from £63.6m to £35.4m.

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Consumers optimistic but still cautious with spending

Irish consumers are planning to spend more but they remain cautious.

The move to loosen household purse-strings comes as consumer sentiment rose in May despite uncertainty about the general economic outlook, including the evolving political crisis in Italy.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI consumer sentiment index increased to 106.7 in May from 104 in April, reversing about two-thirds of a drop that had been seen between March and April.

Economists said the May reading for the survey suggests the mood of consumers is one of guarded optimism.

Jobs and wage data this year have been positive, and figures from the Central Bank last week showed Irish household savings at a record high of €101bn, indicating at least some households have the capacity to crank up spending.

However, consumers are mindful of risks to the global economy.

Despite the rise, the May index reading is lower than was seen in January or March, indicating that the recovery in household confidence is patchy.

Economist with KBC Bank Austin Hughes said there is a sense of consumers in this country being buffeted by cross currents rather than riding the crest of a wave of good economic news.

Most of the five elements of the sentiment index were up last month.

However, the two elements that were down were the expectations for the economy and prospects for household finances over the next year.

The strongest rise in the elements that make up the index was the one related to spending plans by households.

“The pull-back in expectations both for the Irish economy as a whole as well as consumers’ own household finances also sits uneasily with a ‘bubbling’ economy at present but this reading is entirely consistent with the evidence emerging from other indicators in the past couple of weeks,” Mr Hughes said.

He said the measured tone of Irish consumer confidence mirrors the picture of the economy suggested by relatively modest growth in retail sales.

The economist said this is at odds with the recent warnings from the Paris-based think-tank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that the economy is experiencing rising “wage pressures”.

Mr Hughes said the tone of the latest consumer confidence reading is entirely consistent with recent indicators showing modest increases in earning and spending that point towards an uneven recovery across households and businesses.

Economic momentum worldwide has been cooling in recent months.

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