Belfast Telegraph

Last to declare profit, but BoI is still ahead of AIB

By Margaret Canning

Bank of Ireland was lagging behind its three competitors in Northern Ireland in declaring itself to be back in the black. But the lender, which is led by chief executive Richie Boucher, will be able to live with fourth place as its results have assured its future liquidity.

Bank of Ireland, through its UK subsidiary, has around 35 branhces in Northern Ireland, making it number three in the province.

By profit, it is the Republic's second most-profitable bank, behind Allied Irish Bank.

But it has one massive advantage over AIB, which owns First Trust in Northern Ireland.

At the time of then-Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's recaptilisation of the troubled Irish banks in 2008, Bank of Ireland recieved €4.8bn in State aid. The bigger AIB, however, received €21bn. That left the Irish State with a 99.8% shareholding in AIB and just a 14% shareholding in Bank of Ireland.

Richie Boucher was confident yesterday that the future was bright for the bank.

He said: "We have the capital, liquidity and infrastructure to support our businesses and our growth ambitions for them.

"The strength of and the growing momentum in our businesses gives us confidence in the group's prospects and in our ability to deliver attractive and sustainable returns to our shareholders".

Bank-bashing became a popular sport in the UK and Ireland during the downturn, when banks were lending less to businesses and borrowers alike.

But Emmet Gaffney of Investec said the Irish public – which indirectly bailed out the banks – should greet Bank of Ireland's results with enthusiasm as they are its de facto shareholders.

The Republic's Finance Minister Michael Noonan said they were "good news for the Irish taxpayer". The State invested €4.8bn in Bank of Ireland in 2009.

"To date, around €6bn has been returned to the state through sales of investments, interest coupons and guarantee fees."

Belfast Telegraph