Minister in dark over threat to MBNA jobs
ENTERPRISE Minister Richard Bruton only found out about Bank of America's plans to pull out of Ireland when the announcement was made public.
The Government had not been told about the threat to 1,000 jobs at the MBNA credit card operation before bank chief executive Brian Moynihan announced on Monday that he would seek to "exit" the business.
The IDA now faces an uphill task to help deliver a buyer who will treat the MBNA Ireland business as a going concern and secure the future of the jobs -- around 750 workers are based at the call centre in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, with the other 250 jobs located in Dublin. MBNA also employs 4,000 at its British operation in Chester.
Speculation was mounting last night that Barclays Bank could be interested in buying the Irish operation.
The president of the Carrick on Shannon Chamber of Commerce, Gerry Faughnan, said the UK high street bank could make a move for the business. "Barclays are probably in the frame," he said.
The IDA will be talking to major financial companies worldwide as it aims to market MBNA Ireland through its global network.
Bank of America has already sold its MBNA Canada business to Toronto Dominion Bank. In Ireland, with the domestic banking sector on life support, there seems to be little prospect of a domestic buyer emerging.
Yesterday, a Bank of America spokesman said the MBNA Ireland business was profitable. But the bank refused to put a timeline on the sale.
"Our European consumer credit card business is a successful and profitable operation with a highly skilled workforce in Chester and Carrick-on-Shannon, and we will be seeking to bring certainty for our employees by identifying an appropriate solution as quickly as possible," said the spokesman.
"We are in the early stages of the process and our ultimate decision will be based on what is in the best interest of our shareholders, employees, customers, and partners. In the meantime, it is business as usual," he added.
The Carrick-on-Shannon business has been a consistent one for Bank of America since it bought the MBNA business in 2006, but is a minuscule part of the bank's operations.
The company's most recent accounts show that in 2009 MBNA Ireland made a profit after tax of €2.78m on turnover of €37.5m -- down slightly on 2008.
Earlier this year it was fined €750,000 by the Central Bank for overcharging its customers almost €17m.
Bank of America has found itself squeezed by new US regulations, forcing Mr Moynihan to downsize the bank.