Opening Bell: Manufacturing growth speeds up, living wage comes to the UK, Eir's rural broadband plans

Get up to speed with today's breaking Irish and international business news...

Growth in Ireland's manufacturing sector sped-up during the first quarter of 2016 according to the Investec Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

The reading rose to 54.9 in March, up from 52.9 in February - any value over 50 indicates growth. This was the strongest month since July of last year.

The rate of job creation also increased for the third month in a row.

______________________________________________________

Compensation of €1.1m was paid out last year to consumers who have taken complaints against banks and other financial services providers.

The Financial Services Ombudsman revealed that three-quarters of the complaints that it receives relate to mortgages.

Danske Bank had the most findings against it (13), it was followed by Ulster Bank (12), Irish Life Assurance (10), Bank of Ireland (9), AIB (7) and PTSB (6).

______________________________________________________

Eir, formerly Eircom, has responded to Government concerns over 300,000 homes that could be removed from a €1.5bn State-subsidised rural broadband scheme.

The houses in question are part of the 300,000 homes that were covered by the State's 750,000 home scheme.

As Eir has targeted these customers with its own fiber offering and already started work to supply high-speed internet to 100,000 homes.

The Department of Communications said that its original plan for 750,000 houses remains in place until a provider submits "all of the relevant criteria and signed a commitment agreement."

Eir responded with a statement saying, "The department requested and last week received details of the first phase of 100,000 homes and businesses that is part of our rural 300,000 rollout. They are currently examining that submission."

Under EU state-aid laws a public broadband scheme cannot be rolled-out where a private provider is operating.

The Government has two contracts available for private firms - Eir, ESB, E-Net and Vodafone’s Siro are all likely to be interested in these tenders.

______________________________________________________

Millions of workers in the UK will be paid more from today as the new national living wage becomes compulsory.

The rate that everyone over the age of 25 can expect to receive is £7.20 per hour, an increase of 50p per hour on the previous minimum wage.

But the new wage has attracted criticism with unions saying it is not fair that those under 25 will miss out, and business groups saying it could hit productivity.