Belfast Telegraph

Shares in First Trust owner to go up for grabs

By Ed Carty

Ordinary punters will be able to buy shares in one of Ireland's bailed-out banks when it is offered on the London and Dublin stock markets in the next year.

A quarter of First Trust owner Allied Irish Banks is to be sold off by the Irish government in the second half of this year or the first half of next year.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan updated cabinet colleagues in Dublin on the planned sale as he looks to recoup as much of the €20.8bn (£18bn) of taxpayers' money that was pumped in at the height of the Republic's banking and economic collapse.

The Irish state owns 99% of the bank, which last week reported pre-tax profits of €1.7bn (£1.47bn) for last year and a €250m (£216m) dividend being paid, the first by the bank in nine years.

First Trust last month announced the closure of 15 branches in Northern Ireland - cutting its network by half.

In a statement on the AIB sale, the Republic's Department of Finance said substantial progress was being made on the sale, which could take place any time between now and July 2018 depending on market conditions.

It said "a potential retail offer" was being considered to give "individuals the opportunity to participate in an IPO (Initial Public Offering) at the same price as institutional investors".

It is likely brokers will be lined up for investors and a minimum investment level is being considered but no incentives. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Davy and Deutsche Bank have been hired to assist on the sale.

Belfast Telegraph