What Friday's papers say
FG succession speculation hots up; French elections unsettle investors; LPT outsourcing firm received €12.5m
- The Irish Times leads with the speculation surrounding Enda Kenny, saying the Taoiseach has indicated that he will not be standing aside as leader of Fine Gael in the coming weeks despite facing increasing pressure to outline his departure date.
- The paper says the Health Service Executive is seeking the repayment of €10m in dispensing fees it believes was overclaimed by a number of pharmacy chains. These include Cara, among whose directors is Ramona Nicholas of RTE's Dragon's Den, and the Hickey chain. The companies deny the allegations.
- In business, the Irish Times leads with comments from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who says the Government is in denial about Brexit, even though it is the "defining challenge" for the current generation. He warns that the state has to face the reality of a 'hard' Brecxit.
- The paper says N26, a low-cost mobile-first bank which was awarded a full European retail banking licence last year, has gained about 10,000 customers in Ireland, of which around 10 per cent are using its new subscription-based premium current account.
- The Financial Times leads with news that French bonds are being traded at volumes not seen since the euro zone crisis as the tumultuous presidential election race divides investors over whether France will deliver the world's next populist upset. Hedge funds in New York say investors are becoming more concerned about the prospect of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen winning in April and May.
- The FT says Britain's business secretary Greg Clark travelled to Paris yesterday evening to meet members of the French government and executives at car group PSA in a bid to secure thousands of jobs at Vauxhall factories in Britain. PSA is in talks with GM to buy the Opel brand, which owns Vauxhall in Britain.
- In companies news, the paper says Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese conglomerate, has ruled out rescuing Toshiba's stricken nuclear reactor business, warning of too many differences in their respective technologies.
- The FT says Air France-KLM has vowed to cut costs and boost passenger capacity this year in an effort to "regain the offensive" in the long-haul market, as the group reported a 35 per cent rise in full-year earnings.
- The Irish Independent says Housing Minister Simon Coveney is banking on the support of senior figures in Fine Gael in a bid to catch Leo Varadkar in the leadership race. The paper says Varadkar has substantial support on the backbenches but a lack of ministerial backing.
- The paper says Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned that EU sympathy for Ireland's unique Brexit difficulties does not mean this country can get the concessions it needs from European partners.
- The Irish Independent says Finance Minister Michael Noonan has dismissed plans by Europe to force big companies to publicly disclose information about their profits and taxes paid. He warned against any moves that would undermine the OECD's attempts - in the Beps process - to clamp down on global tax avoidance.
- The paper says outsourcing firm Abtran, which operates the helpline for the state's local property tax, last year received fees of €1.94m including Vat from Revenue. Since March 2013, the Cork-based firm has received fees totalling €12.5m for its services.
- The Irish Examiner reports that Simon Coveney has told his supporters that a radical "generational change" is needed in Fine Gael to set it up for a general election. The paper says this could mean the axe for ministers including Michael Noonan, Frances Fitzgerald, Charlie Flanagan and Richard Bruton.
- The paper says Noonan has been accused by Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry of attempting to "influence or muzzle" a Public Accounts Committee investigation into the Project Eagle controversy after demanding that negative findings against him be removed.
- In business, the Examiner says Norwegian Air has insisted that it is fully committed to starting flights from Cork to the US in July despite its shre price dropping sharply on the back of rising costs for its expanding transatlantic fleet.
- The paper says a major holder of franchises for the KFC brand in Ireland and Britain has seen its holdings in the Republic plunge into the red, with losses at Herbel Restaurants (Ireland) nearing €45m. This was mainly due to a writedown in the value of its property portfolio.