Business Irish

Thursday 28 August 2014

Return AIB to private hands, Wilbur Ross tells NY panel

Orla O'Sullivan

Published 15/03/2014 | 02:30

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Paddy Cosgrave of The Summit at the New York event.

Allied Irish Bank (AIB) needs to be "rehabilitated" and exit government ownership, Bank of Ireland investor Wilbur Ross has told a gathering of Irish businesses at the New York Stock Exchange.

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"It's a heavy lift to have only one big bank," said Mr Ross, an American investor who was part of a consortium to buy Bank of Ireland from the Government.

Speaking in a panel discussion on what Ireland needs to do now to attract foreign investment, Mr Ross told some 300 attendees at Ireland Day that "it would be very helpful to rehabilitate the other big bank in Ireland."

It will be "at least a year" before AIB comes out of mostly government ownership, Mr Ross said in a subsequent interview, adding, "You can't have a healthy economy if you don't have a healthy banking system,"

Bank of Ireland and AIB still account for more than 70pc of Ireland's consumer banking business between them, said Mr Ross.

There was some disagreement at the conference about Google's aggressive tax avoidance policies and whether the Irish university system is in sharp decline. Among those who were critical of third-level education was Paddy Cosgrave, of the Web Summit.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was asked by a speaker from the floor whether the Government needs taxes to fund education and how Google had "paid only $8m in taxes on over $12bn in revenues"?

Ms Burton's answer, to questioner Brian Devenney of Ernst & Young, was the same as it was when she was asked earlier if Ireland needs to lower its corporate tax rate.

"You do that through an international process and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development )," she said, adding, "If the corporate tax rate is too high, clever people will find a way to navigate the system."

Irish Independent

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