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Sunday 21 September 2014

Sale of Irish Life to Canadian investors would be illegal, says PTSB director

Published 07/01/2013 | 05:00

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A director of state- controlled Permanent TSB (PTSB) has threatened to take legal action if the Government goes ahead with plans to sell Irish Life to Canadian investors for around €1.3bn, the Irish Independent has learned.

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Malta-based Piotr Skoczylas, a shareholder and member of the PTSB board, wrote to Michael Noonan on Saturday warning of possible legal action if a sale of Irish Life to Great-West Lifeco, the owner of Canada Life Insurance, goes ahead.

It follows reports that a sale could happen within months.

Great-West Lifeco walked away from talks to buy Irish Life in 2011 when it was still part of Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P) because of fears over the euro crisis.

Since then, PTSB and Irish Life have been nationalised and split up under the terms of a state-financed recapitalisation. Talks with the Canadians resumed in recent weeks, but the Government is now the seller, and any money raised will go to the State rather than the old shareholders of IL&P.

Mr Skoczylas is an executive with Scotchstone Capital and has been an outspoken critic of the State's takeover of IL&P through an injection of €2.7bn in rescue finance.

He campaigned against Mr Noonan's decision to strip Irish Life from PTSB in exchange for a second €1.3bn taxpayer bailout of the lender.

Last year, together with a group of other IL&P shareholders, he launched an action against the deal, but the case was rejected in the High Court. He was elected to the board of the bank in April.

In a letter sent on Saturday and seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Skoczylas said any deal to sell Irish Life would be "illegal" and "must be stopped immediately". He was issuing a "final warning" before further legal action is taken, he said.

Copies of the letter were sent to senior executives at Great-West Lifeco and its Canada Life unit which is considering a deal to buy the Irish insurer.

Copies were also sent to Kevin Murphy, the chief executive of Irish Life, and its chairman, Alan Cook.

Erroneous

Legal proceedings in relation to the original sale of Irish Life to the Government are still ongoing, the letter said, and an earlier High Court decision not to allow a case on the matter to go ahead was "erroneous" and is being appealed.

A resale now would be "flipping the asset", the letter said.

Mr Skoczylas asked Mr Noonan to confirm in writing within a week that the insurance business will not be sold until a legal action to decide on the original sale goes ahead.

The action by a member of the PTSB board threatened to overshadow the announcement yesterday of its return to lending.

Irish Independent

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