Opening Bell: New Grant Thornton jobs, AIB flotation, Barclays eyes D2 base

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Grant Thornton is set to create 250 jobs in Ireland over the next 18 months.

Most of the accounting firm's new positions will be based in its newly-launched centre of excellence, which will provide a framework for the delivery of global compliance and reporting services.

Most of the jobs will be based in Dublin, with the firm moving to a larger docklands office.

Grant Thornton currently employs roughly 1,2000 people in Ireland.

Tim Lohan, Grant Thornton's partner in financial accounting and advisory services, said:

"We have always had the capacity to meet the needs of companies working across many markets, but bringing this expertise in-house simplifies the process and guarantees a high level of consistency for our clients who will benefit from an end-to-end solution being delivered by our Dublin team."

It means organisations that are obliged to report their finances in multiple jurisdictions will now be able to avail of the international expertise of Grant Thornton's Dublin-based team.

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Finance Minister Michael Noonan formally announced the launch of the much-anticipated AIB shares sale last night.

The flotation of 25% of the almost entirely state-owned bank will return it to the stock market nearly seven years after it was nationalised.

It is expected to raise around €3bn, with the remaining stake being sold off over time.

Noonan said in a statement:

"The Government’s long-held policy is that the State should exit its banking investments in a measured and prudent manner, returning ownership to the private sector over time."

He called the move "a significant step in the continued normalisation of the State’s involvement in Ireland’s banking system and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to recovering its investment in AIB for the benefit of the Irish people."

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Barclays could be moving to One Molesworth Street, as the UK banking giant irons out the specifics of making Dublin its post-Brexit hub.

Barclays has denied media reports citing Ireland as the location for its new European subsidiary, stressing its commitment to London.

While it has confirmed a Brexit contingency plan remains under consideration, it has declined to comment on whether it intends to lease larger offices in Dublin.

The Irish Independent understands, however, that Green REIT's upmarket office development, expected to be completed just off Dawson Street by the end of 2017, is its preferred location for its EU headquarters.

It is also thought to be looking at additional floors at its current Irish home of Park Place.

Barclays is expected to add 150 extra staff in Dublin.

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Rolling out high-speed broadband across Ireland could cost the Government "well over" €1 billion, the Irish Examiner reports.

The newspaper cites a warning from Airfibre CEO John Earley, who fears that current funding levels provided to shore up the National Broadband Plan (NBP) would fall short, leaving many rural homes without internet connections.

He said:

“My fear is that there is expectation growing in the business community and those waiting in anticipation could be in for a rude awakening.

"You have to commend the Government for the NBP but if it becomes apparent that the costs are considerably higher than first anticipated, I fear the political will to carry it through may not be there."

Some €275m was allocated for the first phase of the project in 2015. The Government hopes to achieve 100% coverage in three to five years through private commercial investment.

Eir, Siro and Enet have entered the tendering process for the contract, with a decision expected this year.