Belfast Telegraph

Bank of Ireland plans its first dividend since 2008

By Michael Cogleyand John Mulgrew

Bank of Ireland has witnessed its underlying profits rise by almost a third, increasing to €1.2bn (£930m) for 2015. The bank, which has 35 branches in Northern Ireland, is on course to pay its first dividend since 2008 next year, said chief executive, Richie Boucher.

He said dividend payments would be re-installed next year based on 2016 profits.

The bank reports that all its trading divisions were profitable last year and that group loans grew substantially.

According to its preliminary results for 2015, Bank of Ireland now has €3.9bn (£3bn) of net new lending at the core of its loan books.

Mr Boucher said the bank was well positioned to meet credit demand.

"With our strong franchises, we are well positioned to meet credit demand which is recovering as the Irish economy grows and confidence returns," he said.

"We generated an underlying profit before tax of €1.2bn (£930m) in 2015, 30% higher than the equivalent figure in 2014 of €921m (£720m).

The bank says it reduced non-performing loans last year by a further €3.8bn (£3bn) and has maintained progress towards dividend capacity.

Mr Boucher ruled out plans to raise capital and said that there has been a continued reduction of those in arrears. "This was always in accordance with our own plans; one of the things we did in the first week of this year was we repaid the preference shares, which had previously been owned by the Government.

"We have used some of our capital to do that, our businesses are performing well, we are generating profits, so we anticipate if that scenario continues then we will be in a position to start paying dividends next year based on the 2016 profits."

This month, Bank of Ireland revealed it approved £795m in new lending to Northern Ireland businesses in 2015 - up 26% on the previous year.

The increase in business has come from firms of all sizes, according to Ian Sheppard, regional director of business and corporate banking.

"We are particularly pleased to see the increase in demand for term loans as it shows the growing confidence of local businesses as they invest and plan for their long term future," he said.

Belfast Telegraph