Business Irish

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Public will get chance to invest in AIB shares

The sale of 25pc of the bank is Government policy, but that could change if the Government falls. Stock image
The sale of 25pc of the bank is Government policy, but that could change if the Government falls. Stock image
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Ordinary investors will be able to buy shares in AIB on the same terms as large financial investors when the Government sells a 25pc stake in the bank later this year, but they'll likely need at least €10,000.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan updated the Cabinet on the planned sale at a meeting yesterday.

The minister said the key objective of an initial public offering (IPO) would be to maximise the return for the taxpayer on its investment in AIB.

The proposed sale of State-owned shares is not a true IPO, which would raise funds for the bank itself and be run by its directors.

Instead, it's a structured sale on the Dublin and London Stock Exchange of part of the Government stake in the bank.

The minister told the Cabinet that his officials, together with Rothschild and the other banks managing the share sale, are examining options that will give individuals the opportunity to participate in an IPO at the same price as institutional investors.

It is likely interested retail investors would be able to apply for shares through designated intermediaries or brokers, similar to what happened in the Aer Lingus IPO in 2006.

A minimum investment threshold will be considered, and small investors won't be offered incentives to buy the shares, the Department of Finance said.

In the Aer Lingus stock market flotation, ordinary investors had to put in a minimum of €10,000, a size that in practice excludes many potential retail investors.

The minister said the Department of Finance has made substantial progress with preparations for a potential transaction, and in effect confirmed that May or June this year is the expected timing for the long delayed share sale.

The raft of international and domestic firms acting as advisers on the planned deal have been appointed until July 2018, however, which means timing could shift depending on market conditions.

Last week, AIB announced pre-tax profits of €1.7bn for the year to the end of 2016 and proposed a shareholder dividend of €250m. The dividend is AIB's first since 2008 and the first from any Irish-listed lender since the crash.

While the Government is pushing ahead with its plan to reduce taxpayers' stake in the bank, that policy is likely to be put on hold if the Government falls.

CEO Bernard Byrne said last week the ultimate decision to push ahead with a sale this year was in political hands because the shares were State owned.

"At the end of the day this is fundamentally a political decision," Mr Byrne said.

He said AIB was confident that conditions were positive for the planned share sale.

The sale of 25pc of the bank is Government policy, but that could change if the Government falls.

Irish Independent

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