Belfast Telegraph

US billionaire Wilbur Ross to sell his stake in Bank of Ireland

US billionaire Wilbur Ross is selling his entire stake in Bank of Ireland and stepping down as director.

The American investor has tripled his money since buying into the bank in a 2011 deal that kept it out of state hands.

Deutsche Bank has confirmed it is selling Mr Ross’s remaining 1.8 million of shares – 5.5pc of the entire bank.

Mr Ross’s remaining 1.8 billion of shares will be sold in a price range of 26 cents to 27 cents a share.

That values the remaining stake at €468m to €486m.

Added to the €345m realised from his earlier sale of shares in March at 33 cents each it means the original €300m he investment has returned around €830m.

It is just shy of the more than three times return implied by the March valuation.

Bank of Ireland has said it is grateful to Mr Ross for the pioneering investment, which kept the once-troubled lender out of complete state ownership.

Archie G Kane, chairman of the Bank of Ireland Group, said he showed confidence in the lender in the months after Ireland was forced into an international bailout in late 2010 following the banking and economic collapse.

"On behalf of the board I would like to thank Wilbur for his contribution, diligence and commitment as a Board member. Wilbur was instrumental in the success of the 2011 capital raising and, throughout his tenure, we have benefited greatly from his insights," Mr Kane said.

Bank of Ireland said it appreciates and understands the comments which Mr Ross made to the Reuters news agency after the news of his sale broke where he said the decision was not a negative comment on the bank's future and that his investment had been tremendous.

It is understood the reasons for the sell off are to diversify an investment portfolio.

The shares will be offered by Deutsche Bank at around 27 cents each, compared to the stock market value of 10 cents the bank was trading at when Mr Ross invested. He sold about 3.5% of his 9% stake back in March.

Another major US investor, Prem Watsa, is expected to remain a major Bank of Ireland shareholder with a 5.8% stake.

The Irish Government remains the largest shareholder in the bank with 14% of the stock and while a sale has been talked about Finance Minister Michael Noonan has insisted there is no pressure to sell.

Bank of Ireland's share price closed tonight at 28 cents, down from a peak of 39 euro cents earlier this year.

The bank became the first of the Irish lenders to return to profit this year after the financial crash and a 4.8 billion euro (£3.9bn) bailout.

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