Monday 11 December 2017

Bank of Ireland battles Ryanair for ISEQ number two spot

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

BANK of Ireland moved ahead of Ryanair in terms of overall size yesterday, but there was a dogfight on the stock exchange as the airline fought to retain its status as the country's second biggest company.

A rising share price saw Bank of Ireland move ahead of the airline by a hair's breadth to briefly snatch second place, behind building materials giant CRH.

But a photo-finish would have been needed to determine which company had actually secured second place on the podium when the closing bell rang.

Data from financial data firm Bloomberg showed Ryanair's market capitalisation stood at €8.115bn at the close – that was below Bank of Ireland's €8.226bn.

But figures from the Irish Stock Exchange showed Ryanair's market capitalisation at the end of the session to be €8.279bn, a nose ahead of the challenger.

The scuffle at the top comes after Ryanair's shares slumped twice in the past couple of months on the back of two profit warnings.

The airline, headed by Michael O'Leary, had a market capitalisation of just over €10bn during the summer – its highest ever. Since then, its shares have declined 23pc.

But as far as stocks go, Bank of Ireland has been the big story this year – with the fastest-rising shares of any bank in Europe in 2013.

At one stage in early 2007, Bank of Ireland, now headed by Richie Boucher, was worth just over €18bn. As the financial crisis raged, that slumped as low as €500m. It's the only indigenous Irish bank to have escaped being completely state-owned. The taxpayer owns a 15pc stake in the bank.

By early afternoon, the gap between Ryanair's and Bank of Ireland's market capitalisations was as small as €23m, and it was unclear during the session which company would emerge as Ireland's second biggest public firm. At that stage, Ryanair's shares were down 0.24pc and Bank of Ireland's were up 0.97pc.

By about 4pm, with just half an hour until the market closed, Ryanair's shares had edged 0.09pc higher, but those in Bank of Ireland had risen 1.87pc. That widened the gap between the companies to €28m, with the bank on top, according to Bloomberg data.

Irish Independent

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