Tuesday 23 January 2018

Billionaire Gates slashes stake in Bank of Ireland

World's richest man buys Digicel and Eircom debt

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Nick Webb Business Editor

Billionaire Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has slashed his stake in Bank of Ireland, selling more than three quarters of his shares in the bank. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, held over 61.6m shares worth €18.5m in Bank of Ireland according to filings last year.

New records show that his stake has been cut to just 13.2m shares, worth around €4.6m. The decision by Gates to chop his stake in Richie Boucher's bank, echoes those of two other shrewd international investors.

Last week, Pre Watsa, who has been described as "Canada's Warren Buffett" halved his stake in the bank by selling 935m shares. The contrarian stock buyer stands to make a €255m profit on his shares purchased in 2011.

Billionaire Wilbur Ross also doubled his money when selling out of the bank in June last year. He is estimated to have made a €477m profit on the shares purchased as part of an institutional placing almost four year ago.

Forbes magazine has estimated that Gates has a fortune of €75bn making him the world's richest man. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based near the Microsoft HQ in Seattle, is the largest private endowment fund in the world, with €28bn in assets earmarked for good causes.

Gates has been an investor in Irish bonds, with a holding worth €21m. This has been a lucrative investment for the billionaire. His foundation holds $13.6m worth of "Irish bonds 5 2020" and another block of "Irish bond 5.4 2025" worth $9.13m.

At the end of December 2012, it held close to $7.8m worth of "Irish 5.4 government bonds" with a maturity of 2025; $6.03m worth of "Irish 5 government bonds" with a maturity of 2020; and $4.14m worth of "Irish 4.5 bonds" with a maturity of 2020.

Two years ago, the Sunday Independent revealed that Gates and his foundation had been a major bondholder in the Irish banks ahead of the financial carnage that saw the taxpayer facing with a bill for the €64bn bank bailout.

The Gates Foundation trust held almost €27m worth of bonds in Irish banks at the tail end of 2006. This included 7.29 million bonds in Anglo Irish and associated entities, which it valued at nearly €8.15m.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also been actively buying Irish corporate debt. It bought $4.25m worth of debt issued by Eircom subsidiary Eircom Finco S.a.r.l, as well as picking up $515,125 worth of Denis O'Brien's Digicel bonds. It also owns a $618,000 chunk of bonds issued by Paul Coulson's Ardagh as well as nearly $2.1m worth of Ardagh bank loans.

There are small shareholdings in ICG,CRH, DCC and Paddy Power.

Gates also owns about 1.27m shares in Independent News & Media, which has seen its share price rise sharply in recent weeks.

The world's second richest man, Mexican telecoms to banking tycoon Carlos Slim also invested in INM, publisher of the Sunday Independent, buying a €16m stake in 2008.

Sunday Indo Business

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