Ntma report 4880

Bank of here, there, and everywhere

It will still be called the Bank of Ireland, but there will be a lot less of Ireland in the management, control and financial underpinning of what has been for generations Ireland's flagship financial institution.

Bank of Ireland has been under Irish government stewardship since the implosion of the Republic's economy and the decision by the then Fianna Fáil-led administration to guarantee the Republic's banking system.

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Now, however, an array of outside investors has stepped in as part of a €5.2 billion recapitalization process that will result in the Irish government's majority stake falling back to 15 percent.

According to the Irish Independent, Canadian insurance giant Fairfax Financial, de­scribed as the "lead" in the deal, is taking a stake of just over nine percent in Bank of Ireland with the same share going to U.S. billionaire investor, Wilbur Ross, and the U.S. investment giant Fidelity.

California-based investment house, Capital Group, will hold about six percent, while fellow American firm, Kennedy Wilson, will get a much smaller stake after investing €25 million of the "€1.05 billion stumped up by the quintet," the report stated.

Fairfax Financial chief executive Prem Wasra told the Dublin daily that the group were "friendly investors" seeking "long-term value" and said they would hold their positions for several years.

"In a statement, Bank of Ireland said the new shareholders 'have endorsed the bank's strategy and the bank's view that the Irish economy will come through a difficult period of adjustment and return to growth,'" the report added.

It stated that the "old" shareholders would be left with 31 percent of the bank, bondholders would get 19 percent, while the Irish state will retain 15 percent, a minimum stake decided upon by finance minister Michael Noonan.

The new investment group will collectively hold a 35 percent stake and is getting close to the maximum 37 percent stake it hoped for after 65 percent of the bank's "old" shareholders passed up their opportunity to buy new shares in a rights issue, the report stated.

It added that some observers had criticized the deal as a "fire sale," this on the grounds that the Irish government had poured billions into the bank and was coming out of the deal with a stake worth just €3 billion.

New Jersey native Wilbur Ross was once married to Betsy McCaughey Ross, lieutenant governor of New York between 1995 and 1998, when Republican George Pataki was governor.