By Harry Keaney
Across Europe from Jan. 1, a free foreign exchange service will be available to accompany the launch of the euro, the European Union’s new single currency. Ireland’s central bank will provide the free service at its Dame Street headquarters in Dublin.
With the service, customers will be able to change any of the euro area’s 11 currencies in the Dame Street offices.
All central banks in the euro area are obliged by law to provide the free service.
Although cashless euro transactions may be carried out from Jan. 1, actual euro notes and coins will not go into circulation until Jan. 1, 2002.
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The most recent European Commission forecast projects Ireland’s economic growth for 1998 at an all-time record of 11.4 percent, according to Ireland’s international trade minister, Tom Kitt.
During a visit to New York last week, Kitt said this is almost four times the European Union average and is among the most impressive in the world.
When it comes to investing in information technology companies, one of the shrewdest is Dermot Desmond. The Irish financier owns a major stake in Baltimore Technologies, a market leader in e-commerce security. Negotiations took place between Baltimore and software group Zergo Holdings, which is quoted on the Alternative Investment Market in London, according to news reports in Ireland. If a partner, merger or acquisition was to go ahead, a Nasdaq floatation may be on the cards.
Two years ago, Desmond sold a company he himself set up, Quay Financial Software, to U.S. multinational Micrognosis for £20 million.
Desmond also has invested in Financial Coursewear, which along with Baltimore Technologies, is based in Desmond’s International Financial Services Center building in Dublin.
In addition, Desmond has a stake in a company called Datalex, which recently acquired Amsterdam-based company Hyperion for $3 million.
Bill McCabe, the founder of interactive publisher CBT Systems, made £20 million on paper last week when he sold KnowledgeWell, another interactive publishing company based in Dundrum, Dublin, to CBT in exchange for CBT shares.
It remains to be seen if McCabe, who has returned to CBT as chairman, can turn the company’s fortunes around and face down legal actions from disgruntles shareholders alleging that senior CBT figures talked up the company while its troubles worsened.
Hibernia Foods, the Nasdaq-listed food maker, has reported losses of almost £2.8 million for the half-year to the end of September. This compares to losses of £197,000 for the same period last year. The half-year losses include a non-recurring charge of £1.5 million.
Job losses in Meath
The CTM-Southborough firm, the largest employer in Kells, Co. Meath, has announced that 60 jobs will be eliminated on Jan. 3 to be followed by a further 100 redundancies in February. CTM-Southborough specializes in making sheet metal components for electronic and computer equipment manufacturers. The company recently lost a major customer, Dell Computers.
Claims and compensation
Anyone reading Irish newspapers on a regular basis can not but notice the frequency of the reports of horrific, often fatal, traffic accidents that occur on Irish roads. Apart from the human toll, there’s also a financial cost. Total insurance premiums paid into the industry in Ireland rose by nine percent to £1,300 million last year while the cost of claims rose faster, by more than 11 percent, to £1,164 million. Underwriting losses in motor insurance increased by 26.7 percent to £114 million.