Tuesday 20 March 2018

Credit unions set for wave of mergers in face of losses and arrears

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

TWENTY-FIVE credit unions are considering merging with others in a move that could herald a wave of consolidation across the movement, the Irish Independent has learned.

The growing interest among smaller credit unions in amalgamating with larger counterparts comes as the sector faces intense pressure from rising arrears and loan losses.

The pace of mergers is set to pick up this year. There are 414 credit unions in the State.

Asked about a surge in interest in mergers, Kieron Brennan, the chief executive of the Irish League of Credit Unions, would not comment on specific numbers but said: "There are a number of credit unions that are looking at merging."

However, this newspaper has learned that seven credit unions merged last year -- and three times that number are looking at tie-ups this year.

Last year, the Maxol credit union merged with Larkhill in Dublin. In Wexford, Ballymurn became a sub-office of Enniscorthy. The Law Library in Dublin joined the Health Service credit union, while Belfield linked in with Dundrum.

There was also a tie-up between Fethard and Tipperary's Clonmel. The largest merger saw Clonsilla and Premier in Dublin merge with combined assets of €120m.

Mr Brennan confirmed that 20 credit unions had now sought the support of the league's bailout fund, the Savings Protection Scheme (SPS).

The league has already made provision for €48m out of its account to support 13 struggling credit unions. This has left €72m in the fund.

Mr Brennan denied that the fund would be wiped out when provision was made to aid another seven credit unions.

See Focus, page 7

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