Saturday 23 September 2017

Bertie gets burned in bank share meltdown

Siobhan Creaton

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is among 135,000 small investors who have lost out in the Irish Life and Permanent (IL&P) shares wipeout, an Irish Independent investigation reveals.

Mr Ahern and his estranged wife Miriam owned more than 300 shares in the troubled lender, which were worth almost €7,500 at their peak in February 2007.

But the stock is now virtually worthless in the wake of the recent bank stress tests that confirmed IL&P will need a €4bn cash injection to stay afloat.

The expected nationalisation of IL&P, which includes Permanent TSB, the country's biggest mortgage lender, has all but wiped out the investments of around 135,000 shareholders in the company.

It dwarfs the number of people who were burned by the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank.

IL&P's register of shareholders includes people from all walks of life who invested in bank shares during the boom years.

Aside from some well-known political figures, small investors include churches, charities, GAA clubs and schools.

Mr Ahern has owned a total 330 shares together with his wife Miriam since 1994.

At their peak, when the shares were trading at €22.45 in February 2007, they were worth €7,409.

Today the shares are trading at 13c, valuing the Aherns' stake at less than €50. They could drop further if the company is nationalised.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton holds 2,140 shares that were worth as much as €48,043 in 2007, but are now valued at just €278.

Other high-profile political investors include Tanaiste and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore and disgraced Independent TD Michael Lowry.

Like Mr Ahern, they each hold 330 shares that are now worth less than €50.

The company says 80pc of its shareholders got free shares.

Some, who were customers of Irish Life, received shares when the company began trading on the stock market in 1991.

Freemasons

Irish Permanent also gave around 300 free shares to customers with deposit accounts and mortgages when it became a public company in 1994.

The two companies merged in 1999. The share register shows most of the shareholders who got free shares held on to them.

One of the biggest shareholdings belongs to the Masonic Trust Company that represents the freemasons and invests money on behalf of masonic lodges around Ireland.

It holds 78,654 shares that were worth as much as €1.8m in 2007, but are now worth €10,225.

It is also nursing losses on its Bank of Ireland investment that was worth €12.7m in 2007 and is now worth less than €350,000.

A number of hospitals and charities also lost out.

The 50,000 shares held by the governors of Mercers Hospital Foundation in Dublin have dropped in value from €1.1m to €6,500, while Waterford General Infirmary has seen the value of its shares plummet from €190,825 to just over €1,000.

Many sports clubs also hold Irish Life & Permanent shares. They include Ballina Town FC, North Tipperary GAA Board, Ballinderreen GAA Club, Longford Slashers, Ballybunion Golf Club and Tennis Ireland.

Irish Independent

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