Opening Bell: 20 new Centra stores, Ryanair profits down, Irish retail woes

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Centra has announced plans to hire 460 staff as it opens 20 new stores this year.

The convenience store chain is ploughing €20 million into the business.

It recorded sales of €1.59 billion last year, a 3% increase on the previous year's performance.

The company already employs nearly 11,000 people around the country.

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Ryanair's net profits fell by almost 8% in its third quarter, as overcapacity continues to depress ticket prices in Europe.

The airline made a net profit of €94.7 million, down from €102.7m for the same period a year previous.

Sales of €1.35 billion made for a 1% year-on-year improvement but fell short of expectations.

Ryanair did, however, carry 16% more passengers in the quarter.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said:

"We expect the uncertainty post Brexit, weaker sterling and the switch of charter capacity from Turkey, Egypt and North Africa into Spain and Portugal will continue to put downward pressure on pricing for the remainder of this year.

"Our prices are falling faster than we initially planned."

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Concern is growing among Irish retailers following a disappointing Christmas period.

The latest IBEC retail monitor shows a downturn in performance during the second half of 2016.

Total sales fell by 0.1% when compared with the festive season the previous year.

The group cites softening consumer sentiment and a further move towards online shopping as key reasons for weak results in the sector.

Retail Ireland Director Thomas Burke says 2016 was a year of two halves:

"In the first half we saw a steady incremental growth over the first six months of the year. But certainly in the second half of the year, growth slowed significantly. There are a number of factors we would put that down to.

"Certainly there has been a softening in consumer sentiment among Irish consumers and they're less likely to spend as freely as they were in the first half of last year."

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The number of cars taken on UK and Irish ferries rose by 2% last year.

Discover Ferries thinks growth was driven by a 5% increase in domestic trips, with markets in Western Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight doing well.

The Industry body says 8.8 million cars were carried by operators in the UK and Ireland in 2016, up from 8.6 million the previous year.