Paschal meets Apple bigwigs as AIB seeks help-to-buy scheme extension

Seen and heard: PwC to review children’s hospital costs, ESB may offload Dublin depot

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe met senior executives from Apple while on a trade mission to Silicon Valley last week, according to the Sunday Business Post. It reports that the tech giant's appeal against the European Commission's €13 billion tax ruling was among the issues discussed. Apple has to date lodged more than €14 billion into an escrow account pending the outcome of that legal process.

All the Irish Sunday broadsheets carry news that AIB is seeking an extension of the Government's help-to-buy scheme beyond its scheduled expiry date of October. The Sunday Times Irish edition notes that this is being done despite an independent economic survey that concluded the incentive had done little to help kickstart new builds.

The initiative, which was announced in 2016, gives first-time buyers a tax rebate of up to €20,000 to use as a mortgage deposit.

According to the Sunday Business Post, AIB is also seeking additional tax breaks for smaller landlords, similar to those available to institutional investors.


The same paper reports that PwC has been appointed to review costs at the new Children's Hospital, which have spiralled to a projected €1.73 billion.

It also says the Department of Finance is to spend €160,000 on a history book that doesn't cover the property bubble, the blanket bank guarantee or the bailout programme. The book is being written to mark the department's 100th anniversary in 2022 but will only cover the period from 1958 to 1999.

The Sunday Times reports that ESB is sitting on a potential €150 million windfall if it moves to offload an approximately nine-acre depot site it has on South Lotts Road, within walking distance of Google's Dublin headquarters. The paper says the land sale would be the largest by a commercial semi-State company since RTÉ disposed of just under nine acres of land at its Donnybrook campus to Cairn Homes.

Biotech startup crashes

The same publication says that Opsona Therapeutics, a biotech backed by the likes of Amgen, Novartis, Shire and Roche as well as Irish VC firms such as Seroba Life Sciences and Fountain Healthcare, is to be wound up. Kieran Wallace of KPMG is expected to be nominated as liquidator later this month by the company, which has raised €70 million in funding to date, including €5 million just six months ago. The paper says a search for a development partner or buyer for the company has proven unsuccessful.

Elsewhere the newspaper says private equity group Cerebus has been refused an application for a summary judgment of almost €10 million against three businessmen associated with the Bridgeford Partnership. It also reports that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is looking to demolish part of Eir's former headquarters on St Stephen's Green to make way for a new education and research building.

More than €80 million in loans have been provided to Irish SMEs by peer-to-peer lender Linked Finance over the past five years, according to the Sunday Independent. It says more than 20,000 people are now registered with the platform and that lenders have earned €6 million in interest on loans of up to €300,000.

The same paper reports that Investec is open to reviewing its decision to hold a deposit book in Ireland. The broker, which last year informed retail and corporate customers that it would no longer be able to hold a book in the Republic due to it operating under a UK banking licence, has since said that if Brexit-related transitional arrangements are put in place it may continue to offer deposit banking services locally.

According to the Sunday Independent, the combined cash on the books of the largest Iseq-listed firms fell by more than €1 billion in 2018 as debt rose by over €2 billion. Its analysis shows the cash held by the 20 biggest companies was €8.3 billion, double what it was 10 years ago.