Friday, February 20, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG

A State €400m loan programme to support SMEs announced


State-backed body (SBCI) launches first batch of SME-friendly loans.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has welcomed the decision by AIB to match the discount offered on the €200 million that the bank is drawing down from the SBCI
An initial tranche of €400 million is to be made available for lending to Irish SMEs by the new State-backed Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI)
The body was established late last year to make cheap, long-term loans available to small and medium-sized business.
As part of the first phase of its programme, the bank, which is backed by German, European and Irish money, will offer loans of up to €5 million at discounted rates for periods of between two and 10 years.
The SBCI said its first batch of SME-friendly loan products would be available from March 9th through AIB and Bank of Ireland, which will act as On-Lenders to channel the loans to companies.
Eligible applicants for the loans must be independent enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover of less than €50 million and/or an annual balance sheet total of less than €43million.
Three product offerings were announced on Thursday, including an investment and working capital loan, which offers SMEs a discounted interest rate and loan amounts up to €5 million for between 2 and 10 years, and an agriculture investment loan package.
A new offering covering loans to refinance SMEs whose current bank loan facilities originated with banks which are exiting the Irish market, was also announced. These loans may also cover new lending for investment and working capital purposes.
The SBCI’s initial funding partners are the European Investment Bank (EIB); Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau(KfW, the German promotional bank); and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).
The SBCI was established in a bid to improve access to credit for small and medium-sized businesses. It intends to provide funds to banks and financial institutions on the proviso that they lend it to SMEs with more attractive terms and conditions than have typically been the case in recent times
SBCI chief executive Nick Ashmore said SBCI loans would soon be made available through other banks and via existing and new specialist SME lenders.
“Irish SMEs have been paying more to borrow than similar businesses across Europe. The SBCI products we are bringing to market are designed to address this in a simple and SME-friendly way. By bringing cheaper, longer-term funding supported by the EIB, KfW and the ISIF, the SBCI will help SMEs with their funding costs and make it easier for them to support jobs and grow their business,” he said.
To coincide with the announcement, AIB confirmed plans to reduce its standard variable business loan rate by 2 per cent to 4.5 per cent. To facilitate this, SBCI will provide a discount of up to 1 per cent, which will be matched by the bank. Individual loans of up to €5 million will be available to applicants, the bank said.
AIB’s director of retail and business banking Bernard Byrnesaid the lower cost credit should allow SMEs to borrow to invest in their businesses at a crucial turning point in our economy.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan welcomed the decision by AIB to match the discount offered on the €200 million that the bank is drawing down from the SBCI.
Bank of Ireland confirmed its participation in SBCI’s new lending scheme but did not offer specific details about loan rates. Nonetheless, BoI’s director of business banking, Mark Cunningham, said the bank had credit available and urged SMEs and agri customers who are looking to secure funding to get in contact.
Mr Cunningham said funding can be used for a number of activities to develop a business such as the purchase, renovation or extension of the business premises or for IT infrastructure or R&D expenses.
Lobby group Isme welcomed the introduction of low-cost loans but warned that adequate oversight would be required to ensure that lending partners distribute the funding to SMEs and not to less risky large corporations as it said had happened in the past.
“While a separate bank, similar to the ICC Bank, would have been preferable, we welcome this long awaited initiative. It is important that Government makes it clear to the banks that this funding is not to be misallocated. It is intended that the funds will be used by SMEs and no excuses or bank fudging for the allocation of the funding elsewhere should be tolerated,” said Isme chief executive Mark Fielding.
“The Central Bank must monitor the situation strictly and banks must be compelled to report to it regularly. The banks cannot be allowed to revert to past form similar to when they used the cheaper funds in the nineties to refinance larger businesses. Penalties for non-compliance should be enforced,” he added.
The IFA also welcomed the fact that the farming and agri-business sector would have access to funding through the pillar banks.
“Significant investment is planned on farms with the abolition of milk quota and the rollout of the RDP TAMS programme. It is expected that there will be strong demand from the farming sector for matching funding via the banking system over the coming years,” said IFA president Eddie Downey.

12% of Irish Dads develop postnatal depression


As many as one in nine Irish fathers suffer with paternal postnatal depression, the results of a new study suggest.

Postnatal depression is generally associated with women during the first year after their baby is born. Symptoms can include low moods, feelings of sadness and loneliness, frequent crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, feeling unable to cope and lacking energy.
According to a new study carried out by researchers at University College Cork (UCC), 12% of Irish men show symptoms of paternal postnatal depression.
The study involved 100 fathers, all with a child who was less than 12 months old.
It found that factors which increased the risk of postnatal depression among fathers included a history of depression, having a baby with sleep problems, a lack of support from their partner, a lower level of education and having a premature or overdue baby.
Living in rented accommodation, being unmarried and having poor finances also increased the risk, as did not having any paternity leave.
According to Lloyd Philpott and Dr Paul Corcoran, who carried out the study, paternal postnatal depression is a significant public health issue, but one that is currently underscreened, underdiagnosed and undertreated.
Details of these findings were presented at the 34th Annual International Nursing and Midwifery Research and Education Conference at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin.

An Attempt by a sub-prime lender to repossess €40,000 family home loan is stopped


Home Funding Corporation Ltd claimed, with interest, £40,000 loan became €1.4m debt. 

A High Court judge has halted a bid by a sub-prime lender Home Funding Corporation Ltd to repossess a couple’s home over alleged default on mortgage repayments.
A High Court judge has halted a bid by subprime lenderHome Funding Corporation Ltd to repossess a couple’s home over alleged default on mortgage repayments. The lender claimed, with interest, €1.4 million was now due on a £40,000 loan taken out in 1997.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the balance of justice favoured refusing the company’s application to have the repossession application re-entered against John and Sheila Nolan, Tallaghan, Ballinagare, Castlerea, Co Roscommon.
A delay between 2004 and 2014 by the company in advancing the application was inordinate and inexcusable and the case should be dismissed for want of prosecution, she said.
The Nolans had entered in 1997 into a mortgage agreement with Wise Mortgage Company. The £40,000 loan was to be repaid over 15 years via monthly repayments of £552, amounting to a total £99,399.


Their loan was transferred in 1997 to Home Funding Corporation Ltd (now Vivier Mortgages Ltd) and it was alleged the couple stopped making repayments on the loan in 2000.
Home Funding brought proceedings seeking a possession order for their home in 2001 and had asked the court to re-enter the possession application. Its lawyers had written to the couple last year seeking €1.4 million which it alleged was now due, the court heard.
The couple, represented by Peter Bland SC, argued the application to re-enter should be dismissed due to inordinate and inexcusable delay and want of prosecution.

Big delay

Home Funding claimed the delay was due to an “oversight”; a receiver being appointed to the company in 2007; and negotiations aimed at settling the matter. It accepted there was delay but argued the balance of justice favoured its application.
The Nolans rejected those reasons and claimed they were prejudiced by the lengthy delay in advancing the repossession proceedings.
In her judgment, Ms Justice Kennedy noted the repossession proceedings were entered in 2001 and Home Funding’s statement of claim and the Nolan’s defence and counterclaim were served in July 2004. In February 2014, nine years and seven months later, the company sought to have the proceedings re-entered.
Oral evidence would have to be given at any hearing of the repossession application and 18 years had passed since the Nolans entered into the mortgage, she said.
Costs were also awarded in favour of the Nolans and a stay on the costs order applies in the event of an appeal.

Job-Bridge is operating mostly satisfactorily?

Minister Alex White tells Dáil


SF TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh (abov right pic) claims scheme is causing low pay and under-employment, ‘It does not take six months to learn how to stack shelves says Aengus O’Snodaigh. 

Monitoring of the JobBridge scheme had revealed the vast majority of internships were found to be satisfactory, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White told the Dáil.
He said there had been almost 10,000 visits since the scheme got under way, resulting in 97.5%  operating satisfactorily. Only 44 out of 11,000 host organisations had been banned indefinitely, while 10 had been banned for a lesser period of time, he added.
“That represents 0.5%  against a backdrop of thousands of monitoring visits,” Mr White added.

Severe action

He said complaints were investigated and, where a breach was found, severe action was taken.
The Minister was replying to Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who said the scheme was lowering pay and creating under-employment in the State.
He said the Indecon report found 30% of employers saying they would create a job if Job-Bridge did not exist.
“We have also seen headlines about the abuse of the scheme and the fact that the Department of Social Protection has allowed internships to be promoted which otherwise would have been entry-level jobs,’’ Mr Ó Snodaigh added.
He said six out of the first 10 positions advertised on the JobBridge website were for retail or office staff.
“It does not take six to nine months to learn how to stack shelves, nor does it take nine months to learn how to pick potatoes in Donegal, ’’ he said.

The regional hills on Mars could be hiding an icy secret

No sooner have astronomers started getting detailed, close-up images from the Martian surface than they’re busy trying to guess what it looked like in the past.
One isolated hilly region might have a more interesting past than most, which has left it with an icy secret today. To paraphrase the Wild West for the space age: there be ice in them hills.

What is this secret icy region of the Red Planet?

Astronomers have been looking at a region of Mars known as Phlegra Montes, a network of hills covering an area of 1,400 kilometres.
Phlegra Montes stretches from the Elysium volcanic region up to the northern lowlands, and sits at the mid-latitudes of the Red Planet. Scientists have estimated that the hills are between 3.6 and 3.9 billion years old.
But as interesting as the topography of Phlegra Montes is, recent images captured by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other orbiters have got scientists excited about the region’s past, and what might now lie beneath.

What do we know about Plegra Montes’ icy past?

Looking at how the hills of Phlegra Montes are formed today, scientists think the region was under some large glaciers a few hundred million years ago. Today they think there could be ice leftover from those glaciers a mere 20 metres below the hills’ surface.
The reason this is possible (even though the region currently lies at Mars’s middle latitudes) is that over time Mars’s axis has varied a lot. So former glacial regions are now much further south.
Certain geographical features point to a history of glaciers. Aprons of rocky debris, plus small valleys cutting through the hills and flowing to lower regions, are signs of historic glaciation on Earth.
In contrast, the flat areas around Phlegra Montes were probably formed by volcanoes, and have distinctively volcanic “wrinkles” round the edges.    

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