Sunday 25 August 2019

BoI braces for no-deal as rhetoric hardens

Francesca McDonagh CEO of Bank of Ireland
Francesca McDonagh CEO of Bank of Ireland
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh said she would be happy to sit down with new UK prime minister Boris Johnson to spell out the economic implications of a no-deal Brexit, and had already done so with his predecessor Theresa May.

Bank of Ireland has significant operations in Britain and in Northern Ireland, and is bracing for what it sees as an increasingly likely risk of a hard Brexit.

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The situation appears to have "hardened in the last 48 hours", she said. "Listening to the emotional rhetoric out of London, it is pointing in the direction of a no-deal Brexit being a real risk again, as it was earlier in the year."

Bank of Ireland was prepared for a crash-out Brexit in March, she said, and will be again if it is a risk on October 31. She urged customers who are fearful of the potential impact to contact the bank. "We have a €2bn Brexit fund to help SMEs on the island of Ireland," she said. "Our advice to business owners is to speak to us, to be as ready as they can be for what will be an uncertain period."

The bank's shares fell sharply, down almost 4pc at the end of trading yesterday to €4.182 each, after it disappointed markets with reduced profits.

It also warned that a "material" lowering in interest rate expectations and Brexit uncertainty are creating "challenges" in delivering against a strategic plan unveiled a year ago.

Ms McDonagh said the bank will stick by a key target of generating a 10pc return on tangible equity, but said the tighter interest rate environment means it will likely mean greater cost-cutting.

The shift to a "lower for longer" interest rate environment was recent, and detailed cost reduction plans had not been worked out, she said.

The bank was on track with targets to grow lending, cut bad debts, lower costs, and is ready to lend more if and when appetite improves, she added.

The firm reported underlying profit of €376m for the first half of the year, down from €500m in the same period last year.

Irish Independent

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