Belfast Telegraph

Business lending up as Bank of Ireland invests £456m in economy

By Clare Weir

Bank of Ireland UK said it has funded Northern Ireland businesses to the tune of £456m in the first nine months of 2014, an increase of 59% on the same period last year.

The institution said that small business and agricultural lending is particularly strong and that 93% of all credit applications are being approved.

Last year there was a total of £500m in approvals.

Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland UK’s head of business and corporate banking in Northern Ireland, said that growing confidence across the business community could translate into growth and jobs.

There was a 55% increase in the number of agri-lending packages approved for producers, processors, retailers and food businesses in the first nine months of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013.

“We are also seeing increasing interest from companies who want to trade outside Northern Ireland,” he said.

Sean Sheehan, Northern Ireland regional director for consumer and small business, added: “Bank of Ireland UK is helping businesses of all sizes to grow — from small start-ups to major employers, and across all sectors of industry and commerce.

“We’re committed to supporting businesses right across Northern Ireland and we are delivering on that by having business advisers in all 36 branches and local specialists to build relationships and provide speedy decision-making,” he said.

The announcement, made at the launch of Bank of Ireland’s 10th enterprise week, follows positive results from all of Northern Ireland’s main banks on business lending.

Ulster Bank says it is due to exceed a target of £1bn business lending to the end of 2014, having already loaned almost £850m.

Danske Bank has said that business lending is on the increase — but chief executive Gerry Mallon said last month that more firms need to come forward and borrow in order to drive the economy forward.

First Trust’s figures for the first nine months of the year were not available at time of going to press but a spokesman said that indications were that business lending was on the rise.

The news of rising levels of business lending will be welcome news to Northern Ireland firms, many who had to rein in investment or source funding from alternative sources, including venture capitalists and angel investors, during the banking crisis.

At the recent CBI Northern Ireland Medium Sized Business Conference, sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, 72% of participants agreed they were more confident about their business over the next 12 months compared to the past 12 months. The Bank of Ireland’s enterprise week will take place across Northern Ireland from November 14–  21.

During the week, hundreds of local companies and agri-businesses will showcase their products and services in Bank of Ireland branches while, under the theme of Let’s Connect, the bank will host more than 20 networking events, seminars and clinics.

A meet the buyer event aims to foster increased business between companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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