French telecoms firm close to buying majority stake in Eir

Seen & Heard: Vestager says Irish operation of tech giants should be targeted

French telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel's NIJ Capital is close to finalising a deal to buy a majority stake in Eir, according to the Sunday Times. The deal, which it says is on track to be concluded before the end of the year, is expected to value the former State telecoms company in the region of €1.5 billion.

Talks are believed to have intensified over the past month after stalling in the early autumn. NIJ is expected to take a majority stake through the acquisition of shares from the company’s three largest shareholders, the US funds Anchorage Capital and Davidson Kempner and Singapore’s GIC.

‘Enhanced tax’

The European Union's competition tsar Margrethe Vestager says the Irish operations of tech multinationals such as Google and Facebook should be targeted by enhanced tax rules, reports the Sunday Business Post. The newspaper reports her comments in the wake of both companies' Irish subsidiaries posting multibillion revenue increases.

“It tells me that we need a better tax system when it comes to digital companies,” she said. “It must be thought provoking for every citizen to see business doing business in their country do very well, while contributing very little to infrastructure, the health sector, the education of the country where they actually do their business.”


Hobbs’s salary

Eddie Hobbs, a former non-executive director of the wound-up Brendan Investments fund, takes an annual salary of more than €500,000 from his private financial advisory firm, according to the Sunday Times.

Mr Hobbs splits the sum with his wife, a co-director of the business. Between 2015 and 2016, the couple withdrew a combined €1.168 million in salaries and a further €20,894 in pension contributions from Hobbs Financial Practice Ltd.

At a creditors’ meeting last week of Brendan Investments Pan European Property plc, Hobbs was criticised by small investors who said they had put money into it because of his high profile as a consumer champion.

RTÉ cuts

RTÉ will seek to close the RTÉ News Now channel in a bid to cut costs, according to the Sunday Independent. The newspaper says RTÉ management regards the cost of running the channel as unsustainable given low viewer numbers and would rather see the money channelled into online news services. RTÉ will need approval from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland before it can close the service.

Separately, the Sunday Business Post reports that late-night news bulletins on 2fm will end and that RTÉ One's Oireachtas Report is under review amid financial pressures.

State sued over €220m IBRC liquidation fees

Debtors' rights campaigner David Hall has begun legal action against the Attorney General and the Department of Finance in a bid to find out more about the €220 million in fees paid to various parties associated with the liquidation of IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, the Sunday Business Post reports.

Mr Hall is seeking eight declarations from the State in his attempt to find out about the cost of the liquidation and what oversight the State has on this spending. He has asked the Attorney General and the department to declare whether the State had an “effective process” to assess and monitor these fees.

Flying Tiger US expansion plan

The Dublin couple who brought the Flying Tiger retail chain (previously just Tiger) to Ireland have sold their 50 per cent stake in the venture back to the group's Danish parent and are moving to New York and New Jersey in the new year to establish its business there, reports the Sunday Times.

Gillian Maxwell and Niall Stringer opened the first Flying Tiger store in Dublin in 2011 after Maxwell, a recruitment consultant, saw the chain in London. The Irish company was a 50-50 joint venture between the couple and Danish parent Zebra. The chain currently has five stores in the US and is seeking to expand there.