Hospitality sector to receive stimulus plan once restrictions lifted, says Martin

Seen & Heard: Dolphin payouts, KBC exit and fresh legal action against insurers

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has promised a major stimulus plan for the beleaguered hospitality sector to help it recover once the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

In an interview with the Business Post, Mr Martin said the Government's National Economic Plan was being worked on by the cabinet sub-committee on economic recovery, with Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, and Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure, being the "key linchpins".

He confirmed that the plan would include a major stimulus package for the 180,000 people working in hotels, pubs and restaurants in the hospitality industry. “We’ve got to look at the medium term: how do we give substantive ballast or support to the hospitality and the entertainment sectors? They’ve suffered the most and they’re going to need priming, they’re going to need support beyond the emergence from the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Martin declined to say if there would be a new tourism voucher scheme to replace the ill-fated €270 million “stay and spend” scheme that comes to an end on April 30th with just €2 million claimed in refunds.

Dolphin paid out millions to Irish investment brokers

A dozen Irish investment advisers and financial brokers shared in commissions from Dolphin Capital of more than €2 million in just one year, according to documents seen by the Sunday Independent.

Bank statements from 2016 detail a large number of regular payments of anything from a few hundred euro to more than €100,000 at a time to various well- known Irish brokers who sold the Dolphin loan notes. German Property Group (GPG), formerly Dolphin Capital, collapsed into insolvency last year, owing investors as much as €1.5 billion.

KBC mortgages buyout plan could hit the big banks

The two pillar banks will squeeze out competition if Bank of Ireland proceeds with plans to buy up to €9 billion of mortgages from KBC Bank Ireland, a leading non-bank lender has claimed, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Fergal McGrath, chief executive of Dilosk, has called for non-banks to be allowed to play a much greater role in the rapid reshaping of the market triggered by the winding down of Ulster Bank and KBC's expected exit.

“A robust financial services offering choice to consumers and businesses is fundamental to a successful economy and a key component in a well-functioning mortgage market,” he said. “It will be in the interest of the consumer that the mortgage market is not highly concentrated among one or two pillar banks.”

Insurers face new legal actions as more businesses sue over Covid

Insurers are facing a fresh wave of litigation over their refusal to pay out on Covid-19 business interruption claims, as policyholders plot new test cases that could have implications for thousands of ailing businesses across the country,the Business Post reported.

The move by hospitality firms, in particular, to secure payouts that could help them stay in business amid the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic comes as the Business Post has seen further evidence of insurers deducting the value of state supports from awards to policyholders.

Documents obtained by the newspaper show that insurers, including Axa and Contessa, have stripped thousands of euro from the value of awards made to policyholders, including SMEs and small sole traders.

The practice has raised concerns that state supports designed to help struggling businesses in the wake of an unprecedented economic crisis are instead acting as de facto indirect subsidies to insurers, whose liability to policyholders is reduced by the equivalent value of the supports, including wage subsidies and business rates waivers.

Ireland’s two largest local pharmacy groups to merge

The two leading groups of independent, locally Irish-owned pharmacies, Totalhealth Pharmacy and Haven Pharmacy have agreed to merge, following the approval of members, according to a report in the Sunday Independent. There are currently 49 Haven and 78 Totalhealth pharmacies throughout Ireland.

Combined, Haven and Totalhealth will manage a supply chain value of about €200 million per annum and the two groups combined dispense more medicines than the total amount dispensed by the two biggest international chains operating in the market.

The current chair of Haven Pharmacy Group, Daragh Connolly, will be chair of the combined new group. Managing director of Totalhealth John Arnold has been appointed as the new group's CEO.