Opening Bell: Alphabet eclipses Apple, the Dept. of Finance and the IFAC's differing figures, Paddy Power shares surge

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An after-hours trading rally has pushed Alphabet (Google's parent company) past Apple to become the most valuable business in the world. 

Alphabet's share price soared by almost 10% in after-hours trading after it released its latest earnings report.

The strong results showed a 14% annual increase in the company's revenues, growing from $65.67bn to $74.54bn. Yearly operating income was $28bn. Its interests include YouTube and Android.

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The Department of Finance has dismissed claims that there is a significant discrepancy between its assessment of the amount of money available for tax cuts and spending increases, and the view of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.

As the Government pushes it economic narrative in the coming weeks as the country formally enters election season, its handling of the country's finances will be a key matter of debate.

Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan has said that the next Government will have as much as €12bn available over the next five years for tax cuts and spending increases - however opposition politicians have pointed to IFAC claims that this figure could be closer to €3.2bn.

In a note the Department said, "The difference between the department’s figures and those of the IFAC reflects the fact that their estimates assume that various forms of social benefits are indexed to the rate of inflation.

"Any such increases in expenditure are a matter for the Government of the day and require a policy decision as part of the annual budgetary cycle. To include these measures in the fiscal space by the Department of Finance would be an assumption on future policy decisions, which are a matter for the next government."

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Paddy Power's imminent merger with Betfair led to a 4% spike in the company's shares yesterday.

The merger comes into effect today - the €10bn deal will create the world's largest online betting company.

Up to 7 million shares changed hands before Paddy Power Betfair enters the Morgan Stanley Composite Index (MSCI).

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A 'red card' system to block EU legislation is among a range of draft reforms the British Prime Minister has secured from Brussels, 10 Downing Street has said.

Under the system, MPs would be able stop new laws coming into force if they club together and win support from 55% of parliaments across the bloc.

Members of parliament would have up to 12 weeks to convince those in other countries that the legislation needs to be blocked.

No 10 said the system allows David Cameron to fulfil a key manifesto commitment and answer one of the key demands from his party members in Westminster - to give national parliaments more say in EU laws.

The red card is one of a number of proposals in the "new settlement" between the UK and EU that will be published by European Council President Donald Tusk later today.